Insecurity, investment shortfall may widen 2.1mmt fish deficit
Nigeria’s 2.1 million metric tonne fish deficit may continue to widen, as the fisheries industry remains challenged by insecurity and lack of confidence in attracting new investments.
The value of fish imported into Nigeria annually has been put at $1.46 billion in a report by PWC this year, titled ‘transforming Nigeria’s agricultural value chain’, and which indicated estimates were deduced using a combination of sources, including the World Bank, National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
In the second quarter GDP report for 2017, the agriculture sector grew by 3.01 percent in Q2 2017 from 3.39 percent in Q1 2017, and 4.03 percent in Q4 2016. While other sub-sectors in agriculture had some measure of growth, Fishing contracted, recording -2.27 percent in Q2 2017, a sharp drop from 5.49 percent in Q1 2017.
Olajide Ayinla, President, Fisheries Society of Nigeria (FISON) when asked about the factors responsible for the fisheries’ seemingly huge decline, even as the agric sector generally grew, noted “there are lots of issues involved, such as declining investments in captured fishes (which contributes about 70 percent of fish production). It has also been facing challenges from piracy and Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, and climate change.”
Sola Amire, president, Nigerian Trawler Owners Association (NITOA) attributed the challenges in expanding fish production to uncertainty over the concession agreement for the Kirikiri light terminal 1, also known as the Lagos Fish Port.
Amire told BusinessDay by phone, that the concession “has not been done in line with the expectation of stakeholders. Trawler operators have not been relocated, yet they keep getting notices to move out. Invariably, they are less inclined to make substantially new investments, considering the atmosphere of uncertainty.
“While some companies have recently acquired new trawlers, these are all in expectation that tomorrow will be better,” Amire said.
Heineken Lokpobiri, minister of state, Agriculture and Rural Development, had told BusinessDay in an interview, that “Part of the challenge that we have today is that we have only about 120 fishing trawlers licensed to fish within our territorial waters and half of it is owned by one company called Atlantic Shrimpers. The rest are owned by different individual companies that have been fishing within our territorial waters.”
Insecurity is however a huge challenge as well, Lokpobiri said “Nigeria’s coastline is the biggest within the gulf of Guinea and we certainly do not have the capacity, as it were, to be able to combat the illegal and unregistered fishing activities by those who are coming from other parts of the world to take our fish away.”
One of the solutions, according to Lokpobiri, is backward integration. “Let people who are in the fishery industry, and who are often given fish license to import also do a lot of aquaculture in Nigeria; to employ our people and then bridge the gap.”
The view is shared by Amire, who also said, “We should not focus our activities only on the maritime sector. Within the inland waters and Nigeria generally, we have the potential to produce enough to annul importation, even from cultured fishes.
“We can produce even three million tonnes of fish through cultured system, particularly as technology makes it possible to produce more with less physical space. A production of three million tonnes alone, will cover the country’s annual fish demand, creating a possibility for excess, through the captured fishes; essentially nullifying the need for importation,” said Amire.
Emphasising the unattractiveness of continuous emphasis on captured fish, the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) noted, “Western Africa’s coastal fishery resources are operating well beyond the brink of sustainable utilisation, in part because of IUU fishing. More than 50% of the fisheries resources in the stretch of coast ranging from Senegal to Nigeria alone, have already been overfished.”
According to FAO, “Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing also threatens the food security of millions of people in the West African region. In Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal, fish provides an estimated 45% of animal protein, and the kilos consumed per capita in these and other countries in the region is higher than the African average.”
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