The National Chairman of Association of Indigenous Seafood Stakeholders Nigeria, Mr Lamina Rasheed have said the prices of frozen fish will continue to be high if the government refuse to sell dollars to fish importers at official rate to import frozen fish into the country.
Rasheed lamented that the Nigerian fish importers access forex from the black market at N467 to $1 against the N197 to $1 they have been buying in the past.
He also called on the government to as a matter of urgency check the smuggling of frozen foods illegally into the country through the land borders, stressing that the unfortunate act had made the market very difficult for those of them who pay about 14 per cent import duty on imported frozen fish.
According to him “last year, the exchange rate was N197to $1, but today we are buying dollars at the rate of N467, N520 to $1 about 3 weeks ago to bring in froze fish into the country, because frozen fish have been classified among the which is not enjoying foreign exchange subsidy from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) , so this one has contributed to a lot to why the prices of fish is high.
“It is very simple, when you buy dollars at the rate of N467, how do you sell the fish, and that’s why we are appealing to the Federal Government to assist us in accessing for forex from the CBN. Before now, we were getting forex from the government but now, we are buying from the black market.”
On illegal smuggling of fish from the land borders, Rasheed said “smuggling of frozen fish has done so much damage to the business, when you import your frozen fish which has been regulated by the Department of Fisheries in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, where they you quota to bring into Nigeria, when you bring in that cargo, you pay import duty as much as 14 per cent to the Federal Government which is millions of Dollars, but these illegal importer of frozen fish does not pay anything when they are bringing in their fishes through the land borders.
“At the end of the day, you will not be able to compete with them in the market, for example when you pay 14 per cent import duty and somebody is paying zero per cent, how do you sell your commodity, so all the fishes which have been allocated by the Ministry of Agriculture and brought into Nigeria legally were unable to be sold, we stocked them in the cold room because we cannot afford to lose the bank money or our money which we have worked for years.
So it has a lot of damage, we have a lot of stock unsold in the cold room now due to this illegal importation of frozen fish.
On the quota system for frozen fish importation, he said “we are comfortable with the quota system, if we are not comfortable with the quota system, it means we are not encouraging our local production, we have to grow every country imports fish, Japan is the largest importer of frozen fish in the world, followed by America and Holland.
“We need about 3.2 million metric tons of fish in Nigeria and we are importing 1.1 million metric tons, meaning that we are in short of 2.1 million metric tons, we are not there yet, and don’t forget that most of these fish cannot be grown in Nigeria, so that’s why we import these fish.”