Norwegian Seafood Council Raises Awareness on Seafood Safety in Nigeria

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Emma Okonji

A selected team of Norwegian Seafood Council are in Nigeria to create awareness on the safety of imported seafood from Norway.
The team, which held a seminar and free training session for Nigerian Independent Chefs at the Eko Hotel in Lagos, stressed the importance of seafood safety, especially in the process of preserving them for export and consumption.

The Director for Central and West Africa at the Norwegian Seafood Council, Mr. Trond Kostveit who led the team to Nigeria, said: “Nigeria is our second largest country after China for the export of Norwegian seafood, hence the need to address safety and create awareness among Nigerians dealers and chefs on how best to prepare preserved seafood from Norway.”

Kostveit who frowned at the poor storage facilities for imported seafood in Nigeria, especially the move by some traders to preserve seafoods with insecticides that are harmful to human, said the best way to preserve seafood from exported from Norway, is through the natural preservation process practiced by Norwegian Seafood Council, which takes a minimum of three months to naturally dry and preserve seafood in the open air.

Fisheries Consultant to Norwegian Seafood Council, Mrs. Abbey Cheke, said the two-day training of Nigerian chefs, was aimed at creating awareness on the safety of imported seafoods to Nigeria and the best way to prepare already preserved seafood that were imported from Norway.

According to Kostveit, in the past months there has been focus on illegal uses of dangerous chemicals on broken pieces of dried fish in some Nigerian markets. To this end, the Norwegian Seafood Council wishes to organize a seminar on seafood safety showcasing the correct handling of seafood. The seminar will also create awareness and assurance on various ways to prevent insects and other unwanted pests on perching on seafood products. As part of the knowledge expansion on Norwegian products, we have invited chefs at some key hotels and restaurants in Nigeria to a separate chef seminar where we will focus on the preparation of stockfish fish, mackerel and salmon.”

In 2018, Norway exported 20,500 tons of seafood to Nigeria, valued at $40.5 million. So far, in 2019, precisely from January to September, the council said over 21,500 tons of seafood was imported to Nigeria from Norway, valued at $35 million, which is an increase of 48 per cent in volume and 25 per cent in value, compared with last year’s import. Imported seafood from Norway, varies from stockfish, mackerel, pollock, cod, herring, whitefish, among others.

According to Kostveit, “ Nigeria is by far the largest market for dried seafood products like stockfish, stockfish heads, and other dried seafood products in terms of volumes. In 2017, Norway exported 9,000 tons of Norwegian stockfish, stockfish heads and other dried products to Nigeria, valued at $25 million.

“Besides dried products, frozen saithe exports have also grown considerably from a total of 1,400 tons in 2018, to 4,100 tons so far in 2019 from January to September, which is a growth of 193 per cent against the same time last year. . The recent increase of saithe reflects a price sensitivity in the Nigerian market, in that higher prices for cod are consequently replaced with increased imports of saithe,” Kostveit said.

Speaking on market overview, Kostveit said Nigeria introduced import quotas on fish and fishery products in 2013 and import quotas vary from year to year. There are no fixed quotas for stockfish but a license is needed for imports. “The current tariff rates on dry fish from Norway to Nigeria is at 20 per cent. in August 2019, tariff rates on dried fish heads was reduced from 20 per cent to 10 per cent, while frozen whole mackerel and herring were set at 10 per cent, Kostveit added, explaining that Norway does not have a free trade agreement with Nigeria.

The Norwegian seafood in Nigeria can be traced back to the 19th century and has become an important market for Norwegan exporters, particularly for dried fish. in terms of volumes, Nigeria is currently the largest market for dried stockfish products from Norway. Due to the economic downturn and currency challenges in Nigeria there has been a dip in sales from 2014 but recent trends show a gradual stabilisation of trade, along with a broader demand in various products of fish.