What hopes for the Nigeria fishery sector?

The booming world fish trade is generating more wealth than ever before, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). But countries like Nigeria must help small-scale fishers and fish farmers benefit too. In this piece, JOHN OBA, looks at how Nigeria can take advantage of the boom proposed in the market

Global fishery production from wild capture fisheries and aquaculture is said to have set a new record in 2013 at 160 million tonnes, up from 157 million tons the previous year, while exports will reach $136 billion, according to preliminary data published recently ahead of the FAO sub-committee on Fish Trade meeting in Bergen, Norway, this week.

In Nigeria the fisheries sector contributes 4% of the GDP. The total demand for fish in the country is 2.7 million metric and we are producing locally about 800,000 MT. The deficit of 1.9 million metric is met by imports despite the current administration’s goal to be self-sufficient in fish production. According to the minister of Agriculture and Rural development, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, Nigeria spends an estimated N125.38 billion importing fish every year even though it has abundant water resources and marine ecosystems to produce high quality fish.

Yet according to the FAO’s report, other developing countries continue to play a major role in supplying world markets, accounting for 61% of all fish exports by quantity and 54% by value in 2012. Their net export revenues (exports minus imports) reached $35.3 billion, higher than those for other agricultural products combined including rice, meat, milk, sugar and bananas.
He further revealed that there are exciting opportunities in regional markets at the moment as emerging economies such as Mexico, Brazil, Indonesia and Malaysia want more fish and are looking to their neighbours to supply it, which signifies growing demand which stimulates new investments in local aquaculture production, including in Africa.”

But while addressing the 2nd stakeholders interactive session on re-positioning the fisheries sector, held Abuja recently, the minister said hope is not lost, as Nigeria is working to improve the sector by promoting greater investments in aquaculture, improving artisanal, inland and marine fisheries. “Our four-year target is to increase the production of fish fingerlings by 1.25 billion per year, the production of fish feed by 400,000 metric tons per year; and increase table size fish production by an additional 250,000 metric tons per year.”

He said the federal government has started a fish production support program for fishermen and fishing communities. According to him, the GES now includes subsidies for producers of fish. In 2013, a total of 3.6 million juveniles, 36,000 bags of 15 kg of feed and 200 water testing kits were provided to fishermen in ten states, at a total cost of N1.5 billion.
“We reached an additional 18,500 fishermen in 14 states, during the flood recovery program, with provision of juveniles, fish feed, fish meal, nets, floats, sinkers and ropes. This is only the beginning, as we will significantly ramp up fish production interventions this year.”

The ministry is also opening up the deep sea/exclusive economic zone (EEZ) for exploitation, by issuing letters of assurance to companies to bring in deep sea vessels into Nigeria.
In an effort to provide small-scale fishers with access to finance, insurance and market information, invest in infrastructure, strengthen small-scale producer and trader organizations, and ensure that national policies do not overlook or weaken the small-scale sector, as requested by FAO.

The department of fisheries has also embarked on a major effort to revive the artisanal fishing industry, which accounts for 80-85% of the total fish production in the country. “For the first time in the history of Nigeria, a national registration of artisanal fishermen is being conducted, including the registration of all fishing canoes.

This will give the operators an identity beyond the shores of Nigeria, especially when fishing in Coastal waters shared with neighboring countries. This will also ensure that the fishing canoes of artisanal fishermen in the country are not used for sea robbery or piracy.  To improve the processing of fish, the ministry has ordered smoking kilns, manufactured by the Nigerian

Centre for Agricultural Mechanization, for distribution to fishermen and women fish traders.”
The organization had urged countries to assist small-scale fishers and fish workers around half of whom are women, to overcome a number of barriers such as lack of bargaining power and access to credit, difficulty in meeting market access regulations and poor trade-related infrastructure, so that they can access local, global and especially regional markets.

Nigeria has also been re-certified to export shrimps caught in the wild to the United States of America.
The greater potential also exists to use by-products to make the fishmeal and fish oil used as feed in aquaculture and for livestock, indirectly contributing to food security, which would allow some of the whole fish utilized today for meal and oil production to be used for direct human consumption. The section in Nigeria is pledged with several challenges

Lamenting the rot in the sector, Adesina said the government is revamping the fishing terminals in the country. “It is inconceivable that the Ebughu Fishing Terminal was leased out for only N500, 000 per annum until 2005, before being abandoned. The Igbokoda Fishing Terminal was leased out for only N300,000 per year, until 2005 when the Nigerian Nigeria Navy took it over; and no lease payment has been paid ever since. The Borokiri Terminal was leased out at a meager N300, 000.00 per annum up until 2007 when the River State government took it over, as it had been converted for use for petroleum haulages and other services.

He assured that the ministry will immediately repossess and secure the existing fishing terminals at Igbokoda – Ondo state, Ebughu – Akwa Ibom state and Borokiri in Rivers state.
He stressed that fishing terminals are not for oil companies or private jetties, informing that the federal ministry of agriculture and rural development intend to build a dedicated fishing terminal in Lagos state, on the sites previously earmarked for the project in Kirikiri Lighter Terminal I and II.

He further stated that the issue of licensing for fish imports is bedeviled with corruption, as importers and corrupt public officials give licenses away above their available cold room warehouse capacities.
But experts are calling on the government to focus attention on investing in the use of the by-products such as heads, viscera and backbones which can potentially be turned into valuable products also for human consumption.
“We must ensure that these by-products are not wasted from an economic but also a nutritional point of view,” Lem underlined.

“By-products often have a higher nutritional value than fillets, particularly in terms of essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals, and can constitute an excellent means of combating micronutrient deficiencies in developing countries.”
New markets for by-products are already opening up, he said, noting growing demand for fish heads in some Asian and African markets, while there is also potential to use fish heads and bones to meet the rising global demand for fish oil and mineral supplements.

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