Twenty-nine months after the United States of America (USA) placed a ban on catfish imports from Nigeria, the country has lost over N20b as many farmers and investors have been forced to abandon the industry.
President of the Catfish Farmers’ Association of Nigeria (CAFAN), Rotimi OIoye, who disclosed this to The Guardian said the country’s fish farmers are currently incapacitated, as the sanction is taking away the last straw the farmers are clinging to for survival.
On March 1, 2018, the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) placed a ban on the export of Siluriformes and fish products from Nigeria as a result of the country’s failure to “fully address information requested in the self-reporting tool (SRT) before the due date.”
He said the losses have suddenly risen to such amount, considering the length of the ban since February 2018 till date and attendant continuous depreciation of naira against the dollar.
“A 30-tonne container will require times four of wet fish to produce dry fish. 120 metric tonnes of wet fish will give you 25 per cent, which is 30 tonnes of dried fish. At a cost of N750.00 per kg of wet fish, plus N150.00 cost of smoking, add N15.00 as packaging cost on very kilogram of fish, gives you a cost of N915.00 per kg, multiplied by 120,000.00kg equals N109, 800,000.00, for every exportable value from the farm/processing plant.
“I am very sure we can do 10 containers every fortnight, and that is N1b in value. So in 30 months, we would have conservatively done over N20b worth of exportable smoked fish to Europe, U. S and other regions of the world where we have African migrants and shops,” Oloye said.
While noting that there are lots of challenges in the aquaculture industry, Oloye said in the last two seasons, the fish farmers had been contending with the effect of smuggled frozen fish into the country with lesser value and cost, pushing locally produced fish out of the market; and unfavorable season, coupled with unavailability of support logistics, hampering reduction on production.
He said because of this, a lot of investors have scaled down or fully abandoned the industry, and prefer to go into importation of fishery products from the Asian countries, rather than engaging in production.
“No doubt, the Federal Government had put in place a progressive policy, which is supposed to diversify our economy from the monolithic oil earning economy, to an economy that will derive the best from Agriculture, while the farmers are working to take benefits provided.
“However, serious lapses on the part of government officials leave much to be desired because there is no reason for this failure to provide required documentation from us to our trading partners at governmental level.
“We appeal to government to urgently look into this issue and get the ban lifted; otherwise, the farmers and processors will be out of jobs. Aside this, the earnings derivable from this source will not be forthcoming and any delay in taking appropriate action on our part may be taken as admission of guilt on the part of our government.”
National President of Federation of Agricultural Commodity Association (FACAN), Dr. Victor Iyama, who revealed that the delay is still due to problem of standard, said the various stakeholders are working on ensuring that the ban is lifted. “The fish association is also on top of it. We worked on the ban of hibiscus for over two years and that has been completely solved. We are still working on beans, it is an ongoing thing.
“I cannot really quantify the losses incurred since the imposition of the ban, we don’t even have enough fish to eat in the country. Though those who want to export would have lost revenue, but in the long run in the situation like this that ban is placed on what we consume locally, farmers won’t lose too much money. They’ll lose but not too much. If there are some things we don’t consume locally that is when we’ll have serious problem. We are working on how the ban can be lifted because of the need to drive our fish production.
“It is left for the industry players to push and not government, because we are the producers and we must ensure that the standard is met. Though government is there, but if we depend on government that means our business will suffer. Whether we make money or not, we’ll pay our taxes, there is an extent to which government can go, it is our responsibility to make sure that the standards are met.”
The Director, Aquatic Resources Quarantine of National Agriculture Quarantine Service (NAQS), Uwechi Alozie said the Federal Government is on the issue, noting that very soon, US will accept fishery products from the country.
“The problem was majorly due to our failure to meet up with the US equivalent status of inspection. There are certain areas they want us to address. They want us to take samples, know the feeds and chemicals used. They want to know the residual unit, which we have actually done. We are waiting for the US government to come down and specifically see our preparations.
“We have written to them, we are expecting them physically to access our facilities. You know the major problem was that our processing was not like theirs. In our country now, we’ll need to have a data facilities that are required….We are working on it and very soon, they’ll accept our fishery products into their country.”