…as imports hit N41.3bn in 9 months
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has refused to lift the ban on foreign exchange for importation of stockfish heads after several complaints and appeal by Norwegian Seafood Council (NSC).
The embattled importers under the council warned Nigerian importers and relevant regulatory authorities to stop listing stockfish as animal feeds.
It was gathered that the stakeholders had been mounting pressure that CBN should lift the ban on forex for importation of stockfish heads into Nigeria since February, 2021, but the apex bank has refused to yield its position.
According to NSC Director, Africa, Mr Trond Kostveit, notwithstanding the CBN’s reluctance, the value of the seafood imported from Norway to Nigeria was 40,000 metric tonnes valued at N41.3 bil- lion ($75 million), noting that the dominating products were stockfish, stockfish heads, herring and mackerel.
The director explained that despite the serious challenges in the world economy and the prevailing logistics problems, the Norwegian seafood imports by Nigeria was reasonably good, adding that the importers were still in talks with the Federal Government of Nigeria.
He noted: “In February we organised stakeholders meeting here in Lagos with the Norwegian Ambassador. “We produced a communiqué and the communique was passed to CBN. We work all the time to improve the relationship between Nigeria and Norway for the importation of seafood in general, especially stockfish.”
Also, the Fisheries Consultant to NSC in Nigeria and a former Deputy Director in the Federal Department of Fisheries, Ms Abbey Cheke, asked relevant authorities to stop listing stockfish as animal feeds, stressing that apart from its nutritional value, stockfish does not compete with any fishing process in Nigeria. He noted that stockfish and stockfish heads were processed from the finest of codfish, which could only be found in the coldest of waters and could never be produced in Nigerian water.
She explained that stockfish head importation was not competing and would not pose any threat to the local fish production in the country. Cheke said: “Stockfish head is not animal feeds as it is sold for human consumption in all our local markets and supermarkets and it is eaten by virtually all the tribes in the Nigerian society.
“Effort should be made by the relevant organisation/ regulator to stop the practice whereby stockfish heads is being imported into the country under false declaration of animal feeds by dubious importers.”
On his part, the Royal Norwegian Ambassador, Mr Knut Eiliv Lein, assured the stakeholders of partnering with Nigeria in the areas of making stockfish cheaper for the populace, pleading with the Federal Government of Nigeria to allow forex access to stockfish.
He said: “We are here basically to discuss ways of bringing stockfish to the Nigerian markets and to make stockfish cheaper. “We also need the Nigerian government to help us to allow stockfish get access to forex. We need better logistics at the port, lower taxes and less bureaucracy.”
The ambassador said that the world had seen an improvement of the challenges posed by the pandemic, but for the seafood export and import, there were still logistical challenges in the market.
One of the major exporters of stockfish in Norway, Ole Olsen, highlighted the challenges facing the importation of stockfish. He said that the general feedback from buyers was the cost, which had posed a major challenge. Olsen explained: “What we are seeing is that many importers are struggling because of the forex, which, of course, means that the policy is working in the opposite way of what the intention was.
“This means that we should try to address the policy to help the customers and the Nigerian importers.”