Following Federal Government’s plan to stop fish importation into the country by 2022, indications have emerged that the novel COVID-19 outbreak is likely to disrupt the plans to enable the country meet the consumption need. Following the challenges in fisheries and aquaculture subsector, the National Fish Association of Nigeria (NFAN) has urged the Federal Government to declare a stateof- emergency by revamping the sub-sector as Nigerian farmers face distress due to COVID-19 crisis.
In a chat with this newspaper, the President, NFAN, Dr. Gabriel Ogunsanya, explained that fish farmers and industry operators had suffered huge losses to the pandemic with inadequate fish supply and production challenges facing their operations. Ogunsanya stated that the pandemic had hindered fish production and supply in the country, adding that the effect would surely have an impact on the country’s local fish production and government’s fish policy in terms of banning fish import by 2022.
The NFAN president pointed out that time had come for Nigeria to look inward to tap into the huge potential in fisheries and aquaculture for local consumption and export but the emergence of the novel COVID-19 represents a negative pointer towards achieving self-sufficiency in fish consumption.
He said: “We now have serious concerns that in the midst of obvious inadequate fish supply, production challenges and personal sacrifices, our farmers are currently facing unbelievable fish glut, abysmally low pricing and the inability to harvest and evacuate the ponds and other fish holding water bodies, thereby preventing restocking to break the production cycle.
“We now have serious concerns that in the midst of obvious inadequate fish supply, production challenges and personal sacrifices, our farmers are currently facing unbelievable fish glut, abysmally low pricing and the inability to harvest and evacuate the ponds and other fish holding water bodies, thereby preventing restocking to break the production cycle.” The fish expert noted that the industry required strong government commitment, particularly in terms of policy direction and funding, for fish importation to be banned in 2022 as assured by the Federal Government. He said: “As we carry on with the task to meet national fish demand threshold in two years, our farmers require palliatives and economic stimulus packages to remain in business as extended to others.
“We, therefore, pray the Federal Government to consider declaring a state of emergency and implementation of a structured plan to revamp the struggling fishery and aquaculture sub-sector. “We also urge the Ministries of Agriculture and Rural Development and Industry, Trade and Investment to bring attention of government, MDAs and funding bodies to the plight of hardworking fish farmers and industry operators.”
The WorldFish Nigeria Strategy 2018-2022 showed that Nigeria produces one million metric tonnes of fish annually, leaving a deficit of about 800,000 metric tonnes; which is imported. Also, the WorldFish Nigeria indicated that fishery is a major economic sector, estimated to employ over 8.6 million people directly and a further 19.6 million indirectly; 70 per cent of whom are women.