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Nigerians decry US catfish ban

11 January 2019, at 3:09p.m.

The Nigerian Government must take immediate action to overturn a US ban on catfish imports from the west African country, according to the president of the Catfish Farmers’ Association of Nigeria (CAFAN), Rotimi OIoye.

On 1 March 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 nation’s failure to “fully address information requested in the self-reporting tool (SRT) before the due date”.

Rotimi Oloye, President of the Catfish Farmers’ Association of Nigeria (CAFAN)
Rotimi Oloye, President of the Catfish Farmers’ Association of Nigeria (CAFAN)

Oloye made the plea last week, due to the fact that many of the association's members are frustrated by the lack of opportunity for their processed - especially smoked - catfish products to achieve premium prices domestically.

Oloye echoed the sentiments of catfish farmers when he said: “The ban is… really affecting our market. The lifting of the ban by the American government depends entirely on our government, and the government should please act fast.”

The US ban denied Nigerian catfish farmers and fish processors a major market opportunity. Smoked catfish is a huge delicacy which would appeal to many of the millions of Nigerians and Africans in the US and Europe. And, under the World Bank-sponsored Commercial Agriculture Development Project, new smoking kilns were introduced which significantly reduced smoke levels, while US experts trained Nigerians in the processing of catfish for the US market. They also assisted them in creating branded packaging with barcodes for filleted and whole smoked fish.

A large number of people who acquired smoking skills and prepared to take advantage of this opportunity are frustrated by what they describe as foot-dragging on the part of Nigerian government officials.

Uwechi Alozie, head of the Aquatic Resources Quarantine of National Agriculture Quarantine Service (NAQS), told the Guardian newspaper on 9 December that the ban would only be lifted when Nigeria fulfilled the certification requirements of the US government.

“Our major problem is that we are not meeting the required certification standard for exportation of catfish and other fishery products,” he said.

According to CAFAN’s most recent figures, Nigeria produced 370,000 tonnes of catfish in 2016.