Says sector will boost employment, foreign earnings
As FG mulls policy to reduce frozen fish importation
By Chris Ochayi
ABUJA: The Vice Chancellor, University of Nigeria Nsukka, Professor Charles Arizechukwu Igwe, Thursday, called on the Federal Government to develop a framework that will enhance the growth and effective development of fisheries and aquaculture sector in order to boost food security and foreign earnings.
Prof. Igwe spoke at a one-day workshop with theme, “A step towards improving the fisheries and aquaculture sector in Nigeria’ in Abuja, just as the Federal Government reiterated commitment to increase domestic production of fish to reduce importation of frozen fish into the country and growth in Gross Domestic product (GDP) in the Agric sector.
The workshop was organized by the Resource and Environmental Policy Research Centre, REPRC, the University of Nigeria Nsukka, in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
The Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, DFA. REPRC was specifically established by the University of Nigeria Nsukka (www.unn.edu.ng) to advance interdisciplinary research, capacity building and Policy advocacy on the different dimensions of environmental and resource economics.
Speaking further, Prof. Igwe noted that the fishery sector needs improvement to be a significant contributor to Nigeria’s growth and development, providing food security, employment, domestic and foreign earnings.
According to him, “The fisheries sector has a strategic position in Nigeria, mainly because of increasing fish production and consumption and its contribution to employment and poverty reduction.
“About 40% of Nigeria’s protein intake is from fisheries, given fish consumption at 13.3 kg/person/per year, although below the World average of 20.5kg/person/year in 2017.
The total consumption of fish in Nigeria is about 3.2 million metric tons, with l.2m MT local production leaving a deficit.
“That is augmented through import. Improving output requires dealing with issues in the sector, Including reported cases of decline in fish stocks, due to over-harvesting and overfishing (Exacerbated by increased investment in fishing) and cases of illegal, unregulated and unreported (lUU) fishing and reviewing and updating the regulations and other legal frameworks.”
The Vice Chancellor recalled that, “In recent years, aquaculture has become a significant aspect of the fisheries sector. Nigeria is the largest aquaculture producer in Sub-Saharan Africa (FAO, 2017).
“However, aquaculture is still facing ‘a lot of barriers and output per hectare is still very low. The sector has remained underdeveloped, and performance is poor, notwithstanding the output growth over the years.
“Currently, the sector’s average output of 1.5 tons/hectare/year is well below its potential of 15 tons/hectare/year (FMARD, 2017). Although there is an aquaculture policy (FMARD, 2008), it is dated as many current issues are not covered and cannot be a framework to improve the sector effectively.
“Hence, the sector needs improvement to be a significant contributor to Nigeria’s growth) and development, providing food security, employment, domestic and foreign earnings.
“To enhance the growth and effective development of the fisheries and aquaculture sector and achieve the desired objectives, a lot needs to be done.
“Such includes conducting studies to find solutions to the problems in the sector, mobilization of stakeholders, updating the policies and legal framework and developing a sustainable fisheries and aquaculture management plan.
“The aim of today’s workshop, which is the first in the series this year, is to present the findings of two studies on Fisheries and Aquaculture Performance Indicators in Nigeria, mobilize stakeholders to discuss the issues regarding Fisheries and Aquaculture in Nigeria, and as well chart the way forward.
“The discussion in these areas will help to strengthen the fisheries and aquaculture sector in Nigeria and facilitate sustainable development.
I welcome you all once more to this workshop.”
He urged the participants to engage in a robust discussion on these issues, which I believe are critical to enhancing sustainable development in Nigeria.
Declaring the workshop open, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Mohammad Mahmood Abubakar said the ministry was ready to partner all stakeholders for the development of fisheries and agriculture.
Represented by the Director, Fishery in the ministry, Mr. Emmanuel Okalawo, the minister noted that, “The Federal Government is committed towards improving the fisheries and agriculture subsector to increase domestic product of fish to reduce importation of frozen fish into the country and growth in gross domestic product (GDP) in the Agric sector.
“The ministry under the present administration is pursuing holistic approach to the development of fisheries and Agriculture sub-sector through the diversification programme of the government along the value chain process.
“The important role of fish in food and nutrition security could not be overemphasized, being a source of protein for human diet and continuity essential amino acids required by humans in the right quantities which are usually lacking in most staple foods.
“Fish remain a valuable nutritional supplement and a virile candidate for addressing food and nutrition security in the country, despite the potential impacts of the fisheries and agriculture resources.
“The sector was confronted with numerous challenges, including high cost of inputs, use of unimproved breeds agriculture and the need for improved access to finance, among others.
“The ministry is willing to engage and partner all stakeholders for the development of fisheries and agriculture for economic growth, wealth and job creation as well as food and nutrition security.
“The vision of Mr. President is to grow Nigeria agricultural sector to achieve a hunger free Nigeria through agriculture that drives income growth, accelerated achievements on food and nutritional security, generates employment and transform Nigeria into a leading player in global village.
“The ministry had played a key role in addressing aquatic food systems in the country, notably backward interrogation policy of the government to encourage fish importers to go into commercial agriculture (pond and cage culture) of fish farm clusters nationwide establishment of fish feed mills in each of the six geopolitical zones of the country; Lake Enhancement programmes for store assessment and stocking a water bodies nationwide to increase their productivity, capacity building of farmers, extension, workers, women and youth with provision of starter packs for job and wealth creation.”
He said the ministry appreciated the commitment of resource and environmental policy research center, environment for development (REPRC-EFD) towards organizing this programme.