By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
Fish farmers under the auspices of Fisheries Cooperative Federation of Nigeria, FCFN, at the weekend, says Nigeria needs no fish importation because they have all it takes to meet fish demand in the country.
This was stated by the National President, FCFN, Anthony Asgagye, in an interview with Vanguard in Abuja, while reacting to a recent statement by the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Dr Godwin Emefiele.
Emefiele recently said about $1.2 billion worth of fish is being imported annually into the country, while current fish production stands at 0.8 million metric tonnes with a deficit of 1.9 million metric tonnes. And Nigeria’s demand for the commodity is 2.7 million metric tonnes annually.
According to Ashagye the fisheries industry in the country is robust and has the potential to feed the nation and at the same time enough to export as well. He explained production has been plagued and stunted by lack of political interest to tap and unlock the massive prospects and potential that has remained fallow over the years.
He said: “We have the capacity to meet the national demand including for export, but our challenge has been that of lack of enabling environment. Whether in the marine, industrial and inland there are challenges hindering fishermen to catch enough fish.
“In aquaculture, 60 per cent of fish farmers have retired because of the cost of fish feed which has taken off whatever profit they would have to rear a fish that would reach table size.
“America is still subsidising agriculture till today. Agriculture is not a story.
“What you put in the water will be double compared to what you put inside it. We have the capacity to produce what we can consume in this country.”
He also described the move to fish importation as a disgrace and insult to the nation that has an abundance of fish resources.
“It is an insult and disgrace for us to be importing fish to Nigeria when we have the best fisheries environment in the marine, inland and aquaculture. If the resource we have in the marine, inland and aquaculture is boosted with an enabling environment, production will be enormous and amazing.
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“If you recall, the Presidential Initiative on Fisheries which was initiated by former President Olusegun Obasanjo,
“After that initiative, Nigeria hosted Fish for All Summit in 2005. The result this summit produced between 2005 and 2007, today Nigeria is leading in catfish production in Sub-Saharan Africa.
He added that from 2005 to 2007 fisheries topped revenue profile of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, and also contributed four per cent to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at that time.
“Fisheries topped revenue profile in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture between 2005 and 2007. For the Gross Domestic Product, GDP, fish produced four per cent of it and it has never happened in this country.
“What was the cause? There was that political interest and will by the then President Obasanjo and he created that record within that period.
“When there was this high productivity in the nation’s fish industry, the Director-General of Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) visited President Musa Yar’Adua to commend him for the result of the product of the Fish for All Summit.
“That record today is down because of no follow up and inconsistency. If that tempo was maintained by now we would not have been talking about bringing fish from any country. What we need now is political will, enabling environment, and we are going to bounce back”, he said.