Calls for govt’s urgent intervention for industry
By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
An agribusiness firm, AgrecourseIntegrated Service Limited, Thursday, discloses huge losses made in fish production amid the novel Coronavirus, COVID-19, pandemic.
This was made known by the Chief Executive Officer, Agricos Integrated Service Ltd, Ayoola Oluga, in an interview with Vanguard while speaking on the negative impact the pandemic has made on the fish production industry in the country, and by extension nutrition of Nigerians.
According to Oluga fish farmers have been severely affected by the lockdown, especially when a major market, the hospitality sector, was shut down in order to curtail and contain the spread of the virus
He further stated that most fish farmers have table-size- fish for sale but the patronage has been extremely low – below 10 per cent including lack of fish feed, which has led to cannibalism and losses recorded.
He said: “Fish farmers have been severely affected by the lockdown, especially since our major market, the hospitality sector, has been shut down ever since. Most fish farmers have table size fish for sale but the patronage has been extremely low – below 10 per cent. Many farmers no longer have feed for their fish which has led to cannibalism, hence, major loss.
“The problem of low patronage has persisted because all the major off-takers of fish are still not operating. Our main off-takers are the school feeding programme, hotels, and the wholesalers in Kado Fish Market in Abuja. However, all these have remained on hold for over two months.
“Without exaggerating, losses made by fish farmers across the country are in hundreds of millions of Naira, maybe billions of Naira.”
He also explained that their source of finance has been through crowd-funding and not commercial banks, but it has been difficult to meet the expectations of those who have invested in the business.
“We don’t owe any financial institutions but we owe several individuals because we had to crowd-fund to get money for this business. These are regular everyday people that worked hard for their money. Some people understand the situation while others don’t care”, he said.
He also made it known that there has not been any lay-off of their staff, rather reduction in their salary due to poor patronage and running cost.
He (Oluga) however, called on the government to financially intervene in the industry in order to cushion the negative impact the pandemic had made on their business.
“We need financial intervention as soon as possible to get back on our feet and break even. As it is, many fish farmers are running at a serious loss and if this continues, many will be out of business.
“What is currently offered by NIRSAL won’t suffice for many large scale farmers like us but it’s a starting point. However, the terms are too stringent.
“We are still observing. So far we have shot above our projected expenses to feed our fish, thereby putting us in the negative. We don’t know how much more we still need to buy”, he added.