MILLIONS of fish consumers are heaving a sigh of relief as fresh import quotas for fish issued by the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) recently helped to crash prices across the country.
For instance, herring’s prices have come down from N7,600 to N4,000 per carton. In the case of horse mackerel, the price came down to N5,800 from more than N9,500 per carton. The titus specie is being sold in the market for N6,800, down from a level of N10,200 per carton.
According to the figures from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Nigeria currently has a shortage of 2.6 million tons of fish. While the global average of fish consumption is 18.7 kilogrammes per person, Nigerian per capita consumption of the commodity is only 11.2 kilogrammes.
Nigerian fish supply consists of 600,000 metric tons of local production and the balance is mainly covered by imports of frozen fish. Frozen fish imports are sourced from the high seas by trawlers in Asia, Europe and Russia.
Nigeria’s domestic production consists predominantly of farmed fish, mainly catfish. The varieties of frozen fish that Nigeria imports are not available in Nigerian coastal waters.
Besides, Nigerian trawling industry has been seriously affected by oil spillage, piracy and non-sustainable fishing practices.
“The impact of any major reduction in imports would only mean that catfish will be the only variety of fish available in Nigeria,” a fishery expert, Solomon Anichebe, had said.
He opined that Nigerians have gotten used to varieties of imported frozen fish over the past decades, including herring or Shawa and sardine, which are popular in the North. Horse mackerel (kote), sardinella (agbodu) are favoured in the Eastern part of the country while blue whiting (panla) specie sells better in the South West zone. “Only the catfish has become accustomed to breeding in Nigeria,” he said.
Following representation and prayers from numerous consumer bodies and associations, pointing to the apparent shortfall in supply and the prohibitive prices, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture recently approved issuance of more quotas to deserving importers.
According to sources, the quotas were issued based on proven track record of high quality, fair prices, efficient storage, back up power, cold chain management and firm commitments for fish farming in Nigeria.