Despite ongoing declining ability of Nigeria to earn foreign exchange from the mono-commodity – oil, the nation has continued to waste billions of foreign exchange in the importation of fish it has comparative advantage to cultivate locally.
Audu Ogbeh, minister of agriculture and rural development, recently disclosed that “Federal Government spends a whopping $700 million annually in importation of fish in terms of foreign exchange.”
Government can no longer sustain the high importation bill on fish, Ogbeh said, cautioning that the nation needs to start looking inwards to see how it can produce some of these fishes both for local consumption and then importation.
The total fish consumption per year in Nigeria is put at about 3.32 million metric tons, while the total domestic production current stands at 1.13 million metric tons.
At the moment, Nigeria requires several billions of naira to finance the importation of the remaining of the about 1.1 million metric tons being imported yearly to bridge the deficit in local consumption rate.
The main challenge confronting the government now is how to finance the deficit, within the framework of the growing population, and declining foreign exchange earnings as well as declining value of the national currency.
However, while government is occupying itself with the task of working out ways of sourcing means of meeting the deficit, checks conducted by BusinessDay indicate that Nigeria has no business with fish importation, as available facts show that the nation has enough capacity to be self-sufficient in fish production.
The conclusion is based on the premise of the huge national assets in natural and human engineered fish farming endowments, such as bodies of waters and man- made dams, as well as the large collection of skilled manpower capable of driving fish self-sufficiency in the country.
The geographical location of the country on the world map put the nation in a position to be able to produce enough fish for local consumption through aquaculture, artisanal and industrial activities.
“Nigeria is located in West Africa, 3 degrees to 15 degrees east longitude, and latitude 4 degrees to 14 degrees, the South Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Guinea, north of Niger, Benin to the west, the East by Cameroon, across the north-east of Lake Chad (Lake Chad) and the Chad to the sea. Land area of 923,768 square kilometres, the border line of 4035 kilometres long coastline of about 850 km. National annual rainfall and abundant underground water is rich in resources, surface water system developed, is a multi-river country.
“Wet coastal areas, rainfall from west to east, from north to south are gradually increasing, annual rainfall of 1778 millimetres in western, eastern part of the 4318 millimetres and central regions to 1270mm”.
Industry experts are of the view that the development of the fishery sector is critical to Nigeria’s economic diversifying initiative, as the sector is said to have capacity to serve as engine of growth and employment generation.
Latest Nigeria Fishery Statistic report puts the contribution of the fishery sector to national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at 0.48 percent, while the contribution of the entire agriculture sector to GDP was put at above 20.24 percent.
BusinessDay observed that one of the six geo-ecological entities in Nigeria that had the capacity to be a powerhouse for fish production was the northern part of the country.
The region is massively endowed with vast water bodies, such as River Niger and River Benue, in addition to small water bodies that criss-cross the length and breadth of the region.
Kano State alone is home to over 20 large man-made dams, which experts are of the view that only two of the dams – Tiga and Challawa are being put to any form of agricultural use, and even the two are only being used to the tune of less than 15 percent capacity.