Dr. Akinwumi Adesina
From Yemi Akinsuyi in Abuja
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, has disclosed that Nigeria spent over N100 billion on the importation of frozen fish in 2010.
Lamenting the shortfall of fish supply in the country, Adesina said the estimated annual fish demand in the country was about 2.66 million as against the annual domestic production of about 0.78 million, giving a demand-supply gap of about 1.8 million metric tonnes.
The minister, who gave the hint yesterday in Abuja, during a National Stakeholders workshop on Development of Aquaculture Value Chain under the Agricultural Transformation Agenda, said the country imported over 780,000 metric tonnes of frozen fish annually from Europe, Latin America and Eastern countries.
He expressed regret that the shortfall of fish supply in the country had led to a low annual per capita fish consumption rate of only 7.5 kilogrammes as against 15 kilogrammes per annum as recommended by the Food and Agriculture Organi-sation (FAO).
Speaking through the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Dr. Ezekiel Oyemomi, the minister affirmed that increase in national fish production would not only diversify the country’s resources base, but also complement efforts aimed at achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDG).
Adesina disclosed that the potential yield of Nigerian aquaculture resources had been estimated at over 4.0 million metric tonnes annually which could conveniently meet the national demand of 2.66 million metric tonnes and generate considerable export earnings, provided adequate and effective policies were put in place to drive the industry.
He said Nigeria was proudly the most resourceful and vibrant African nation in the aquaculture industry and currently the leading producer of catfish in Africa.
“It is sad to note that we are still far behind in our efforts at adding value to our aquaculture products, thereby often leading to artificial glut, low value of non –exportable aquaculture products,” he said.
The minister however stressed the need to develop guidelines and policies that would create favourable climate for more investment opportunities across the aquaculture value chain and at the same time provide safeguards against environmental and social risks.
Disclosing that an estimate of 10 million Nigerians were actively engaged in the upstream and downstream areas of fisheries operations, he said the contribution of the fisheries sub-sector to the nation’s economy was significant, ranging from employment creation to the provision of raw materials for the animal feed industry.
The permanent secretary, who was represented by the Director, Fisheries Department, Mr. Frederick Adeyemi, lamented that the high volume of importation constituted a huge drain in the nation’s foreign exchange reserve while the pressure of demand on the limited supply translates to high prices of fish and its products in the country.
He noted that the high cost of fish resulting from the scarcity could only be reversed if more people went into fish production through aquaculture, which he maintained was the major avenue for increasing domestic fish production in the country