The Federal Government on Wednesday debunked allegations that it had banned the importation of frozen fish into the country, describing such claims as false.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, said there had never been any ban on frozen fish in the country, pointing out that what the government did was rather to enforce strict control on prohibition of farmed fish.
Adesina explained that the new fish importation policies were geared towards boosting local fish farming and production in a bid to protect the country from becoming a dumping ground by fish importers at the expense of local investors and general health of Nigerians.
According to the Minister, “The Federal Government had at no time placed a wholesome ban on the importation of frozen fish into the country. The only fish species being strictly regulated and under prohibition from being imported without strict control were farmed fish. This is in line with best practices all over the world.
“The circular of October 29, 2013, which states that all Bills of Lading must be dated on or before October 30, 2013, and the fish cargo landed not later than December 31, 2013, did not ban fish importation but was directed at having a clear cut demarcation between frozen fish imported under the old regime and the new regulation coming into effect in January, 2014.
“To further effectively regulate the importation of frozen fish into the country, the ministry has decided to regulate and monitor quantity and species that each fish importer will be allocated to import to ensure that Nigeria is not used as a dumping ground but only imports what she actually needs and stop the practice of stock piling frozen fish in cold rooms of some importers for weeks before selling thereby making the fish unwholesome for human consumption.
“Nigerians deserve to eat fresh frozen fish not rotten and rancid fish. The health of Nigerians is of prime importance to the government.
“More importantly is the financial implications on the economy due to the fact that the large quantities of fish are imported at a time when they cannot be disposed off easily, leading to the stored fish getting spoilt and rotten. Many of these companies have therefore year-in year-out declared losses and so do not pay tax to the government. This cannot be allowed to continue unchecked.
“The new regulations are clear of a 25 per cent annual reduction in fish importation into the country and the fact is that all fish importers must begin to engage in fish farming like their counterparts in other parts of the world with the aim of increasing local production and reducing import.”
Meanwhile, the minister said the government had embarked on a programme tagged “Aquaculture Fish Farm Estate Develop Programme,” in collaboration with the private sector on a Public Private Partnership, PPP, basis.
According to him, this was to encourage private developers, cooperative societies and interested individuals to invest in fish farming on a large and medium scale levels.
Adesina, also said that Nigeria has been recertified to export shrimps to the United States of America, USA, indicating efforts made to transform the fish industry.
He said the recertification was as a result of the ministry’s push to register the abundant shrimps resources, including some marine and fresh water fish species under the Marine Stewardship Council.