Imported fish is becoming scarce in the market across the country as importers have yet to get permission to bring in the commodity.
Importers said they were still awaiting the yearly allocations usually issued by the Federal Government in January to import different species of fish for local consumption.
An importer, speaking in Lagos on Friday on the condition of anonymity, said no explanation had been given by the government for the delay in the fish import allocations since the beginning of the year.
He said, “An allocation was given in November and there was surplus then. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development was supposed to give allocation at the beginning of this year for the first and second quarters, which is expected to expire in June, but it has not given it and there is equally no explanation from the Department of Fisheries as to why the allocation has not been given.
“The situation has increased the incidence of smuggling from Benin Republic and we are in the dark about the development.”
In the last quarter of 2013, the Federal Government had disclosed plans to reduce fish importation in order to make way for increased production of local species.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, had at the inauguration of the Special Growth Enhancement Support programme in August 2013 said the importation of fish was not a good business for the country, given its huge water resources.
But in November last year, importers alleged that the ministry gave out import quota of 1.6 million metric tonnes of fish, which led to a glut in the market and a crash in price.
According to findings, in the first and second quarters of last year, allocations were given to 80 companies to import 280,000MT of fish, while in the third and fourth quarters, allocations for 520,000MT were given to 124 companies.
“The allocation had not exhausted before four non-Nigerian companies were in November given quotas to import, which was why there was surplus,” the source said.
But another importer who did not also want his name mentioned said Nigerian importers and a few other foreign companies had not had fish to sell since January and that a larger volume of fish being sold in markets were smuggled from the neighbouring Benin Republic.
“There is scarcity among importers; even those who discharge in Warri, Port Harcourt and Calabar are not left out. Smugglers now sell to cold room owners and it pays them more to buy it cheap and sell it off quickly, and the market women will not know,” she said.
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