NNN: Over the years Norwegian dried fish has become an important component / ingredient in Nigerian meals.
This seafood has high nutritional benefits in addition to the appreciated flavor.
Interestingly, stockfish has a history beyond the product itself.
Producing the perfect dried fish is an art. It involves first-class craftsmanship and experience, as well as the forces of nature themselves.
Nigeria and Norway have a long tradition of working together in various ways, and this includes the importation of dried fish that began in the 1890s.
Over the years, as part of expanding product knowledge and awareness in the country, the Norwegian Seafood Council has conducted various seminars, workshops, seafood festivals, and a distinctive chef training workshop.
During a recent event at the Muson Center, Lagos, the council showcased the fusion of parts of the stockfish opera with performances by Nigerian dancers and cultural artists. This was followed by dinner.
Speaking at the 2021 Food Safety Awareness and Awareness Seminar organized by the Seafood Council in Lagos, Norwegian Minister for Fisheries and Ocean Policy Bojmar Skjaran called on the Nigerian government to remove stockfish from the list of 43 items whose access Currency is restricted.
Skjaran noted that the listing of stockfish had made it difficult for both Nigerian importers and Norwegian exporters to trade in the product.
According to him, stockfish is an important part of Norwegians’ business and culture, adding that the trade in this product dates back more than 100 years.
“There is a growing demand for dried fish in Nigeria. However, we have some challenges.
“The main one is the inclusion of stockfish in the list of items that have restricted access to foreign exchange, which has made it more expensive for both importers and consumers of stockfish.
“In recent months, the situation has gone from bad to worse and the fishing industry has reconfirmed the fact that stockfish prices may increase. There are many reasons why stockfish should be removed from the list of items with currency exchange restrictions. “
He noted that Norwegian dried fish is a unique product that can only be produced in a special climate that is only present in northern Norway.
“Second, the Norwegian government does not compete with locally produced fish in Nigeria.
“Norwegian dried fish is a good source of protein; it contains 80 percent of the protein needs of consumers; it is low in fat.
“The Norwegian government will continue to work with the Nigerian government with a view to removing it from the list of items whose access to foreign exchange is restricted,” Skjaran said.
Furthermore, the Norwegian High Commissioner in Nigeria, Mr. Lein Knut, appealed to the Nigerian government to remove stockfish from the list, highlighting the various benefits of the product.
“We believe that stockfish should have access to FOREX, we need better logistics in Nigerian ports, lower import taxes and less bureaucracy.
“Stockfish is low in fat and a good source of protein for its consumers.
“It is a unique product that can only be produced in a special climate,” Knut said.
Furthermore, at the seminar held in Lagos in 2020, the president of the Nigerian First Premier Fish Importers Association, Deacon Gregory Ilobinso, said that getting FOREX for their businesses had become a great challenge.
“If importers want to bring fish in storage, then we have to have a ‘Form M’ approved by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) with evidence of US dollars to pay for the import.
“It takes six months to a year for a Form M to be approved, and because of this, we are unable to store the product. That is why we are appealing to the Federal Government to allow us to access FOREX so that we can import fish. “
“We understand the position of the Federal Government that the oil market is volatile, the FOREX does not have a constant supply, but the cost of accessing dollars for the fish stock is not that much compared to other commodities,” he said.
Ilobinso defended the relevance of the fish population in the Nigerian diet and the need for the government to guarantee ease of access to FOREX for trading, saying that there is no substitute, alternative or competition for the fish population in Nigerian kitchens.
“Common fish has its own place and adds its own flavor to Nigerian foods. Eating and consuming dried fish with meals has become a tradition and a delicacy for us.
“It has a long shelf life that cannot be compared to any protein source; it can be kept in kitchens for an average of two years.
“During the Nigerian civil war, due to the Kwashiorkor outbreak, the World Council of Churches imported fish to help solve the protein deficiency,” said the president.
According to him, when traders cannot import fish, many people in their value chain will lose their sources of livelihood.
“Wholesalers, retailers, truckers, mechanics and shippers will lose their jobs if we cannot import fish. If we are allowed to access FOREX, it will be an additional benefit to the government in terms of higher revenues.
“But if these products find alternative ways to enter the country, the government will probably lose revenue from their importation,” he said.
Similarly, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), Alhaji Sabi ono, who was represented by Fisheries, Dr. Ime Umoh, called for greater collaboration between the Norwegian and Nigerian governments and greater ease in stock trading. of fish in the country.
“Total fish production in Nigeria is approximately 1.123 million metric tons, including imports, and it still does not meet the total demand for fish.
“The volume of fish stock imported from Norway to Nigeria is only about 8,000 metric tons and this represents about 0.4 percent of the total volume of imported fish to Nigeria.
“With this, it can be said that the total volume of foreign currency consumed is minimal.
“Despite the fact that the government needs to reduce the nation’s import bills, we must be aware of the importance of cheap and affordable protein and other nutrients for the Nigerian population.
“When initiating policies and regulations, it is necessary to be aware of the reciprocity of trade between nations and the fact that we can also involve our trading partners like Norway to help us with our integration process in commercial aquaculture,” said the Minister.
In addition, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr. Adeniyi Adebayo, representing the Director, Mr. Ishayaku Zakaria, noted that the current administration will continue to implement policies and reforms to remove trade barriers and obstacles.
“We appreciate the special nature of the relationship between Nigeria and Norway that predates our independence. Nigeria is Norway’s second largest importer of seafood after China.
“Nigeria’s imports from Norway amounted to $ 148.39 million in 2019. We value the relationship and will continue to foster the growth of investment, trade and cooperation between the two countries.
“The current administration has initiated various reforms and policies aimed at eliminating some bottlenecks in trade, restructuring the economy and diversifying sources of income,” Adebayo added.
Stakeholders at the end of the seminar urged the federal government to review the landing cost of importing fish into the country, and asked the government to review and reverse the policy.
However, they appealed for the tariff on the fish stock and the fish head stock to be reduced from 20 to 10 percent to reduce smuggling.
“The government is advised to develop policies that create an enabling environment for non-oil exports such as fisheries, agriculture and agribusiness that encompass livestock and other key value chains with respect to the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA ) “.
Interested parties called on the Federal Government to review the inclusion of Stock fish and Stock fish Head in the list of invalid items for Foreign Exchange.
They also lobbied for the cost of landing the fish population and the head of the fish population in the Nigerian market to be lowered.
In general, the motive becomes important, especially since the fish population (COD) cannot be reared in Nigeria or Nigerian waters.
According to them, fish stocks and the importation of fish heads have not adversely affected the increase in local fish production in Nigeria because the imported volume is relatively low.
They argued that the foreign exchange requirement for importing stock fish and stock fish heads was not comparable to the other 42 heavy items on the exclusion list.
They also alluded to the fact that the fish stocks business is an important avenue for income and wealth creation, direct and indirect, especially for intermediaries, retailers, sellers, carriers, loaders and unloaders, so that it can be stopped the occurrence of crimes. . (Characteristics)
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