It would also compel fish importers to also start operating domestic fish farms. The aim is to replace imports with domestic production.
Late in December 2013, the government replaced the import ban decision with a new policy to cut fish imports into the country by 25 per cent per year by introducing import quotas starting in January 2014.
Industry players contacted confirmed the quota’s introduction, but they indicate there are still uncertainties over how much fish will actually be allowed in under this newly-introduced system. Prices for fish in the domestic market have climbed as a result.
Nigeria produces about 600,000 tons of fish annually from aquaculture and capture fisheries but the
country’s fish supply shortfall is about 900,000 million tons. The market gap is met through imports of mainly mackerel, herring, horse mackerel, croaker and blue whiting (sourced via capture fisheries)
from Europe, Latin America and Asian countries, worth more than $850 million per year.
This supply is in addition to more than 180,000 tons of stockfish (whole and parts) that are supplied by Scandinavian exporters and valued at more than $450 million per year. [Stockfish is unsalted fish, dried by cold air and wind on wooden racks on the foreshore. Cod is the most common species but not the only fish used in stockfish production. In Nigeria, stockfish is a specialty, a cultural and exotic delicacy consumed mostly by people of south-eastern origin (the Igbos) than any other population group in the country].
According to the United Nations, Nigeria’s population of 170 million people may exceed 210 million by
2020, and the demand for fish protein is expected to grow by another 700,000 metric tons over the same period. FAO figures show that Nigeria’s current fish consumption is 7.5 kilos per person against global fish consumption at 18.7 kilos per person, implying that the country’s current consumption shortfall per person is still large, at 11.2 kilo per person.
Catfish, the primary fish farmed in Nigeria, sells for about $2.50 per kilogram while imported fish
species sell for sixty cents per kilogram. Over 70 per cent of Nigerians live below the
poverty line and fish currently constitute 41 per cent of total animal protein intake for the average
Nigerian. The quota’s introduction has begun to put upward pressures on domestic fish prices.
Nigerian industry analysts indicate that the policy’s details have many pitfalls as the species that the government is targeting for substitution (i.e. mackerel, herring, horse mackerel, croaker and blue whiting) are not available in suitable quantities unless imported.
According to the analysts, the quota regime will only increase food inflation, open up channels for profiteering by politically-connected importers, and will fuel smuggling and the corruption of port officials, as well as increase the risk of disease in domestic fish farming as pond are overtaxed.
They advise that the government should consider reducing only imports of species currently farmed in Nigeria, subsidizing fish eggs for aquaculture farmers, and establish a fisheries development fund to help build up the domestic industry.