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'How fisheries contribute to food security in Nigeria'

NIGERIA - Deaconess Foluke Omotayo, the national president of Fisheries Society of Nigeria, FISON, in this interview, explains how fisheries contribute to food security in Nigeria. Excerpts:

What are the challenges involved in fisheries and the contribution to employment, national economy and food security in Nigeria? Agriculture is the first line of defence for any nation as it ensures food security, employment and raw materials for industries. In Nigeria, agriculture accounts for about 90 per cent of non-oil foreign exchange earnings and employs over 65 per cent of the active labour force of the population. Nigeria is richly blessed with a total land area of 923,768km square and adequate resources for fisheries development.

As a coastal nation, it has a coastal line of 853km and the Nigerian continental shelf area is 37,934km2. Nigeria declared 200 nautical miles exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and thus has the sovereign rights for the purpose of exploiting, conserving and managing its fisheries and natural resources within the EEZ. These have tremendous potentials for economic prosperity for Nigeria, it is also interesting to note that Nigeria is blessed with a rich diversity of fin-fish and shellfish resources.

Investing in the harvesting of these natural resources would result in the generation of employment to several thousands of Nigerians engaged in processing activities, both in the small and large scale (i.e. smoking and canning), which can earn the country substantial foreign exchange from its export, in addition to creating employment through storage, transportation, marketing, facilities maintenance and food businesses. Those who engage in fish production; fisheries education and consultancy; processing of fish and fishery products both for local consumption and export and marketing are in direct employment, while those that are into areas such as fish transportation, net repair and fabrication, outboard engines repair and maintenance, vessel repair and cold storage operations among many others are directly employed in the industry.

Food security, rural development and poverty alleviation are inter-woven. Fish contributes 40 per cent of total dietary protein consumption in Nigeria. It is the preferred source of animal protein with balanced amino-acid and essential minerals for healthy human growth. The proportion of saturated fatty acid (solid fat under normal temperature) and non saturated fatty acid (smooth liquid oil) in fish is almost at par with beef while the proportion of non-saturated fatty acid is higher in fish.

Fish is relatively cheaper than meat. It is available to all Nigerians in various forms, such as fresh, smoked, dried, canned, chilled or frozen. Thus scarcity of fish in markets is hardly recorded. Its contribution to food security is therefore enormous as there is hardly any religious taboo affecting the consumption of fish unlike pork and cow meat. This in addition to its cost afford ability accounts for the high demand of fish. Thus the contribution of fisheries to the Nigerian economy is significant when viewed from the supply of animal protein and macro nutrient requirement, income and employment generation, rural development and exchange earning potentials.

How acceptable are our products in the international market? Our fish products which range from fish, shrimps, prawns, lobsters, smoked fish, ornamental fish, and other varied fisheries products are well accepted in the international market. Nigeria earns appreciable foreign exchange from exportation fisheries products. Between 1994 and 2000, Nigeria earned US$56.0 million from shrimps, prawns exports. This increased appreciably in 2005 to US$65 million.

Let me zero in on shrimps. Shrimp was not native to Nigeria, but escaped from Gambia into Nigeria waters and it is doing so well in our waters that Gambia is presently asking for the female breed stock to be exported to Gambia. It is also interesting to note that in exporting fishery products to other countries, we have followed strictly international regulation. The vessels are licensed and all regulations are obeyed. The vessels are inspected regularly to ensure that our products meet international standards. Presently, we are encouraging people to go into smoked fish exports, that is why FIDSON is going to have a workshop this month.

Source: Vanguard

the Fish Site Editor

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