The Tilapia and Aquaculture Developers Association of Nigeria (TADAN) on Tuesday decried the exemption of Tilapia, a farmed fish species, from the federal government’s import prohibition list.
The association’s National President, Remi Ahmed, expressed the association’s displeasure with the list in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos.
Mr Ahmed said that the omission from the official prohibition list by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) would send a negative signal to the international community.
He said the Nigerian Tilapia farming model was currently being appreciated globally and this would mean unregulated importation of the commodity to retard local production.
“This is coming when the international community is happy with the level of work done in Nigeria’s Tilapia sub-sector.
“Within the short period Tilapia was introduced to Nigeria, we have been able to develop and produce Tilapia feed within the country that is better than the ones used in most African countries.
“Let government stop importation of Tilapia into the country because afterwards, the smuggled Tilapia will not allow local producers to get ready-made markets.
“Restriction of Tilapia importation is not even enough, we want an outright ban because we are producing a lot and we can meet the Tilapia deficit if given the right playing field,” Mr Ahmed said.
The president also told NAN that he had over 10 tonnes of farmed Tilapia stored in cold rooms because the smuggled ones were crashing the market price, making it seem like locally produced ones were expensive.
On Tilapia production in Nigeria, Mr Ahmed said that there were bigger farmers across the country and this development would chase entrants and discourage current producers in the long run.
“I have nothing less than 10 tonnes of Tilapia waiting for delivery and I am one of the smallest producers, there is Ejide Farms and others, our fishes are staying too long with us.
“Some of us have invested so much money in the facilities where we farm Tilapia. So, do we remove them now and start doing what? The cost of power and others are serious challenges, so this is not encouraging.
“These importers of the commodity are enjoying grants and other incentives from their countries which is why when the fish is brought here it is very cheap.
“Here, we do not have any sort of support from government, and this is the height of it,” he said.
Mr Ahmed said that in 2017, the NCS intercepted a 40-foot container containing Tilapia and during the briefing informed Nigerians that Tilapia was banned.
Contributing, the Vice-President of TADAN, Nurudeen Tiamiu, told NAN that the government should collaborate with real stakeholders in the sector to fashion out a roadmap to develop farmed fish in the country.
Mr Tiamiu said that the aquaculture sector had been besieged by people who were not known fish farmers, making and taking decisions on behalf of the real time producers.
Mr Tiamiu said: “I see no reason why the Ministry of Finance is making policies on fish import, while the Ministry of Agriculture is not doing anything for stakeholders.
“We have a bunch of stakeholders, you have not met with them and have not seen their capabilities in production and that means the Nigerian government do not understand the issues to be addressed when it comes to food safety.
“We do not even know the quantity of Tilapia needed for consumption, we only know that we have 15 million metric tonnes of fish deficit.
“The exemption of Tilapia from the import prohibition list is not a good development because we have spent so much money in production and dealt with unforeseen environmental issues.
“If insurance that is not structured at the end of the day, you cannot compete with what comes in from China and other competing countries.
“Let government meet with stakeholders and fashion out a roadmap to develop farmed fish and farmed fish is the only way aquaculture can survive in Nigeria,’’ Tiamiu Said.
Another farmer, Abiodun Adedeji, said that stakeholders were not duly consulted before the decision to strike out Tilapia from the list was made.
According to Mr Adedeji, the decision is made without ascertaining the effects on local producers of the fish.
“It is not a good decision and I am sure that the ministry did not get stakeholders’ opinion on this matter to ascertain how the exemption will affect the local producer of the fish.
“We are already facing problems with market pricing as a result of importation through neighbouring countries which usually brings down market price for Tilapia.
“Whereas Nigeria farmers produce with higher production cost as against the lower imported price of the same products.
“This decision will affect investment in Tilapia aquaculture by foreign investors.
“Government is expected to protect the industry by doing things in active consultation with stakeholders and also encourage this importers to invest in local production in Nigeria, ‘’ he said.
Nan reports that the Import Prohibition List by the NCS restricts importation of items.