The Norwegian Minister of Fisheries, Odd-Emil Ingebrigtsen, has pleaded with the Nigerian government to lift the ban placed on stockfish under its foreign exchange policy.
The minister stressed the need to make the importation of stockfish easy through forex, while also stating that Nigeria is the biggest market for Norway’s stockfish.
The CBN had on June 23, 2015, placed a ban on providing forex for the importation of 41 items to conserve reserves and encourage local production of the items.
“Today Nigeria is Norway’s largest market for stockfish,” NAN quoted the minister to have said.
“As the Norwegian minister of fisheries, my target is to create more access for Norwegian Seafood.
“I would like to appreciate the Nigerian government for lowering the import duties for stockfish head from 10 per cent to five per cent, thus bringing the cost of the commodity down.
“We would also want you to remove stockfish from the list of products of foreign exchange barriers.”
Trond Kostveit, who convened the seminar on behalf of the Norwegian Seafood Council, said the commodity is important in the Nigerian diet.
“In 2014, the government of Nigeria placed some 41 products as unqualified for forex and unfortunately stockfish falls under the category.
“The placement of all kinds of fish under the forex embargo, I believe, is to boost local fish production which is quite understandable.
“Unfortunately, stockfish is very important to the Nigerian diet, hence we appeal for its removal from the forex embargo.
“There are very many good reasons why we must take off stockfish from the list, hence the reason for the seminar organised by the Norwegian Seafood Council.”
The Nigerian minister of agriculture and rural development, Muhammad Sabo Nanono, who was represented by Ime Umoh said a collaboration between the two governments would boost aquaculture production in Nigeria.
“The total fish production in Nigeria is about 1.123 million metric tons, which included imported fish. But these still do not satisfy the total national fish demand,” Umoh said.
“The volume of stockfish and stockfish heads, imported from Norway into Nigeria is only about 8,000 metric tons and this represents about 0.4 per cent of the total volume of fish import.
“With this, it could be said that the total volume of foreign exchange consumed by this product is very minimal.
“The sales and consumption of stock-fish in Nigeria has created an important niche for itself. Stockfish has given employment to many Nigerians and many livelihoods depend on it within and across the country.”
He said that although the government needs to reduce the nation’s import bills, “we need to take cognisance of the importance of cheap and affordable protein and other nutrients for the Nigerian populace’’.
According to him, while initiating policies and regulations, there is a need to be aware of the reciprocity of trade among nations.
“The fact is that we can also involve our trading partners, like Norway, to assist us with backward integration process into commercial aquaculture,’’ he said.