Nigeria imported fish worth $71 million, $56 million and $43 million from Iceland, Russia and Norway respectively in 2017.
This development was due to the lack of investment to encourage large-scale commercial fishing, which should bridge the current 2.1 million metric tons (MMT) supply gap.
This implied that the total amount spent on fish importation during the period was $170 million (N61.2 billion).
Aquaculture remains an integral part of Nigeria’s agriculture sector, with annual fish demand estimated at 3.3 million metric tons (MMT).
Industry sources suggested that Nigeria’s per capita fish consumption is 11kg, significantly lower than the global average of 21kg.
According to the Fisheries Resources Department in the Nigeria Institute for Oceanography and Marine Research in Lagos, at least 70 per cent of local fish production was by small-scale fishermen on a subsistence level.
Statistics released by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) showed that the Netherlands exported $174 million worth of fish to Nigeria in 2017.
Numbers released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) revealed that fisheries grew by 4.2 per cent in the first quarter of this year and accounted for 3.1 per cent of total agricultural gross domestic products (GDP).
The segment has managed to maintain growth for two consecutive quarters.
To boost local production and regulate fish imports, the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) provides quotas for fish importation to fish farmers engaged in backward integration, rather than granting waivers. Fish importers without quotas are subject to a fine of $250,000.
The FGN has announced its intention to partially commercialise the River Basin Development Authorities (RBDA) by next year. Transaction advisors for this process have been approved.
Analysts at FBN Quest believe this move could boost the segment through fish rearing in dams.
Following the recent hosting of the 10th annual conference of the Fisheries Committee for West and Central Gulf Guinea, FCWC, by Nigeria, the federal government had disclosed intensifying effort to reduce annual fish import bill.
The Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Heineken Lokpobiri who stated this in Abuja, said the government did not give waivers on fish importation, rather allocated quota to fish importers through the seaport in order to regulate the importation of the commodity.
Lokpobiri said: “To reduce the annual fish import bill, we give quota and we are not giving any waivers and would not give anybody waivers.
“Anybody who imports fish without a quota or obtaining a license is guilty of the crime and where he is found guilty will pay a fine of $250, 000.
“Fish imported with our quota comes through the seaport and subjected to good quality control, and while you are importing you do your backward integration thereby adding more value to local fish production.
“We still have a deficit of 2.1 million metric tonnes of our national demand for fish which is 3.2 million metric tonnes, and to make Nigerians understand 10, 000 tonnes is 334, 000 containers, and you can imagine how many containers it will be if we have a deficit of 2.1m mt.
“If these vessels approved by President Muhammadu Buhari are acquired it will make our coastline safer because illegal fishing activities and security threat will be reduced on the country’s coastline and territorial waters. this will also boost our fish production.”
However, addressing the challenging on of smuggling of frozen fish and poultry products along the Nigeria-Benin Republic border he said: “We are having issues with the Benin Republic where most of those frozen fish and poultry products that they use formalin to preserve are smuggled.”