Okwe Obi, Abuja

Fish farmers under the aegis of Fisheries Cooperative Federation of Nigeria have disclosed that the outbreak of the novel coronavirus and rising cases of insecurity in the North-East have adversely affected fish production.

The Acting National Secretary of the body, Usman Shettima, who spoke at the opening of the fish market in Abuja, added that high cost of fish feeds, lack of modern fishing practices and technology, pose a serious problem.

Shettima appealed to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and NIRSAL to supply palliatives to fish farmers to enable them to meet up the 2.2 metric tonnes deficit and commence exportation.

‘COVID-19 has affected our business. Our people are finding it difficult to go to the farm. They are finding it difficult to market and transport our goods even if they have it. The North-East produce fish a lot but because of insecurity and movement restriction, it has affected us a lot. We are hoping that the CBN will give us palliatives,’ Shettima said.

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‘Our problems are the cost of fish feed which consist of about 70 per cent of our total investment. Another problem is the lacking of modern fishing practices. If we can equip our farmers with modern skills, it would assist us in producing more.

‘We also need budgetary allocation from the three tiers of government. We are not happy with what is being captured in the budget. The fish sector is not well recognised. We also have post-harvest losses which also count against us.

‘Inadequate data of fisheries. We do not have data to tell us the kind of fish Nigerians want, the quantity and location where the fish are produced…’

Despite the challenges, he implored government to restrict fish imports, explaining that ‘the ban of fish should be phased. They should give us about 3, 4, 5 years with this support from these institutions and we are sure of filling up this gap as well as the export sector.’

Meanwhile, a representative of the Ministry of Agriculture, John Onoubiona, said the government would continue to assist fish production especially with loans and modern equipment.