Mohammed Mahmood, the country’s minister of agriculture and rural development, recently said in a speech at the African Union’s Internal Coordination Meeting that the nation’s 2.4 million metric tonnes of frozen fish annual fish import bill were depleting its foreign exchange reserves.
There were 10 million primary and secondary fish producers in the country, according to the federal government. He disclosed that the government was promoting backward integration through commercial aquaculture production for local consumption and exports in order to increase local production and decrease imports.
This is true even though stakeholders admit that the nation’s foreign reserves are being depleted and local farmers’ ability to market their goods is being hampered by the ongoing importation of fish and dairy products.
He said, “Nigeria is a very large country and we need about 3.6 million metric tonnes (MMT) per annum but we are able to produce only 1.2MMT through artisanal, industrial and aquaculture.
“The deficit is being supplemented by frozen fish importation, which is being used to bridge the gap. It is not actually that we are going to have 2.5 million metric tonnes brought into the country, but we have a situation that we supplement with frozen fish imports.”
He added, “However, it is being regulated by the Central Bank of Nigeria because only the CBN governor issues Form-M to anybody who wants to bring frozen fish into the country so that monetary toll in terms of foreign exchange used in importing frozen fish is to be given by the CBN.”
According to information from the International Trade Center, fish, chicken eggs, milk, dairy, and fish products were imported into Nigeria in the previous two years for a total of $3.49 billion. Fish items worth $2.14 billion and dairy products worth $1.35 billion, respectively, were imported into the country during the review period.
Fish items comprised live fish, frozen fish, fish fillets and other fish meat, whether or not minced, fresh, chilled or frozen; fish, dried, salted or in brine; smoked fish; flours, meals, and fish pellets, according to the international trade organisation.
In addition, they comprised molluscs, even smoked, whether in a shell or not, live, fresh, chilled, frozen, dried, salted or in brine; and crustaceans, whether in a shell or not, live, fresh, chilled, frozen, dried, salted or in brine, even smoked; as well as flours, meals, and pellets of the former.
Milk, cream, buttermilk, curdled milk and cream, yoghurt, kephir, and other fermented or acidified milk and cream were among the dairy products imported, along with whey, products made of natural milk constituents, whether or not they contained added sugar or other sweetening material, butter, including dehydrated butter and ghee, and other fats and oils derived from milk, as well as dairy spreads.
Aside from cheese and curd, other imported foods included natural honey, turtle eggs, bird nests, and other edible animal products. These included birds’ nests, eggs without the shell, and egg yolks that were fresh, dried, cooked by steaming or boiling in water, moulded, frozen, or otherwise preserved.