Nigeria Trawler Owners Association (NITOA) has cautioned the federal government against its plans to ban fish importation. The group in a statement signed by its Information Officer, Manny Philipsson, observed that further reduction in fish supply would occasion increment in the price fish, which in-turn would directly impact on Nigerians, who rely on imported fish as an affordable source of animal protein.
NITOA also appealed to the federal government to resist the increment on duty imposed fish importation, saying any increment would escalate the price of fish to the detriment of Nigerians.
The group explained that with the projected population of 174million people by 2015, the demand for fish would rise to 2.1million metric tonns, adding that an estimated production of 740,000mt would mean a shortfall of demand by 1.4millionmt.
"The argument of exporting jobs abroad for what we can produce locally does not arise, as domestically, we cannot match the affordability, quantity, Omega 3 healthy oils, or taste that imported pelagic fish provides," the statement added. He stated further that fish importers provide pelagic fish to Nigerians at affordable prices despite the increasingly high overheads and very low profit margins.
"Rather than resorting to protectionism we should encourage free trade, that is, to support our local fishing industry to export more Nigerian prawns and use those export earnings to import cheaper, more abundant pelagic fish species," the group noted. The group however urged the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to resist the calls by catfish farmers to reduce fish import in other to protect catfish farmers by increasing duties on fish.