By Gabriel Ewepu
ABUJA – THE Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, at the weekend, urged fish farmers in the country to adopt modern technology in order to boost fish production that would meet local and international demands.
Lokpobiri made the statement during a courtesy visit paid him at his office by a technical team from Olam Grains, when they presented new technology in the mariculture sub-sector.
He also used the opportunity in his remarks to inform his visitors that with over 200 different fish species in the nation’s coastal waters, Nigerian fish farmers could take advantage of the huge local and foreign markets, with government’s support the deficit in the industry could be bridged in the industry.
The minster also stressed and maintained that without new technology fish importation will continue and would not be able to favourably compete in the global fish market, hence the need to adopt the available new technology in the global fish sector.
He said: “The ministry will do everything legally possible to collaborate with you, including in the area of policy support to ensure that the huge gap in fish production in the country is bridged.
“If we partner with you, you will be able to upscale your production and bridge the huge gap in local fish consumption as well as the large export potentials that abound in the country.”
Currently, the nation’s total annual fish demand stands at 3.5 million metric tonnes, out of which Nigeria farmers only produce 1.1 million metric tonnes from all sources, basically aquaculture, artisanal and industrial sectors including shrimps, leaving a deficit of about 2.4 million metric tonnes only to resort to importation.
In his earlier remarks, leader of the technical team, Prof Mathew Tan, of the James Cook University, Australia, urged Nigerian fish farmers to key into new innovations that abound in fish farming according to best global practices.
Tan also disclosed that the Sea Bass (Barramudi) specie of fish could revolutionize fish production in the Nigerian fish industry, therefore urged fish farmers in the country to take advantage of it to increase fish production and supply now the government focuses on diversifying the economy.
He also added that in diversifying the nation’s fish species, Barramundi if cultivated in large scale has potential of reducing the huge deficit fish supply in the country and generate foreign exchange revenue.
According to him a research conducted by Olam showed that the fish could survive and both grow in sea and fresh waters in the country, making it possible to grow and multiply fish production Nigeria.
He said the fish currently habits waters in the Asian and Mediterranean regions. In terms of nutrition he said the fish contains highly nutritional value including omega-3 and fatty acid good for the human body, especially pregnant women and children.