Cheta Nwanze: See what Boko Haram has caused (Y! FrontPage)

by Cheta Nwanze
Chxta Frontpage

 In order to stem the ugly tide of huge losses in foreign reserves to unjustifiable importation of fish, there is need to develop local fish production has become very urgent.

Fish is a very important part of our food in Nigeria. As a matter of fact, it accounts for 35% of our animal protein consumption. This makes the production of fish very significant to our economy. It can be a major investment destination. But do we take it seriously?

According to Abdullahi Yaro, a former Councillor in Nasarawa state, who now runs a fish farm full time, the government (as usual) is not providing incentives to fish farmers. Fish feed are very expensive, and are not subsidised he claimed. This was echoed by Tyolummun Agber in next door Benue state. Agber went ahead to claim that the importation of fish was dominant in our import spending, and adviced that we check this for the sake of national security.

Looking at the figures, he is right.

The last reliable data is from 2007 when we produced 600,000 metric tonnes of fish and imported 740,000 metric tonnes. Demand that year was 2.66 million metric tonnes, ergo a shortfall of 1.32 million metric tonnes. In other words, that year we failed to meet our fish needs.

The current minister of agriculture and rural development, Akinwumi Adesina, has said the contribution of the fisheries sub-sector to the nation’s economy is quite significant in terms of employment creation, income generation, poverty alleviation, foreign exchange earnings and provision of raw materials for the animal feed industry. According to him, over 10 million Nigerians are actively engaged in the upstream and downstream areas of fisheries. He also said, but did not give any data sources to back it up, that in 2009 the annual domestic production was about 780,000 million metric tones with a supply demand gap of about 1.88 million metric tones. Consequently, about 780,000 metric tones of fish was imported from Europe, Latin America and far-east in order to reduce the shortfall.

With this poor local fish production, Nigeria has become one of the largest importers of fish in the world. This is in spite of the enormous potentials for fish production in Nigeria.

This is tragic.

In order to stem the ugly tide of huge losses in foreign reserves to unjustifiable importation of fish, there is need to develop local fish production has become very urgent.

The Lake Chad which shrunk from 28,000 sq. km in 1963 to 1350 sq. km in 2005, used to be a major source of fish for Nigeria. As of 2007, it was still a major source contributing fish to the following Nigerian cities as follows: Onitsha – 25%, Enugu – 20%, Lagos, Ibadan and Benin – 12% each, Ilorin – 6%, Jos – 4%, Kano and Ondo – 3% each. This Lake alone has a potential to contribute up to N3 billion to our economy.

Lake Chad is not alone. The vast Nigerian aquatic medium of numerous water bodies like rivers, streams, lakes reservoirs, flood plains, irrigation canals, coastal swamps offer great potentials for aquaculture production in Nigeria.

While Nigeria has never been heavily involved in deep water fishing (except on a subsistence level), we have traditionally been involved in heavy fresh water fishing, which we have allowed to dwindle as our culture of rent seeking has overtaken all others. Our freshwater bodies are as follows: Niger delta freshwater, much of which is polluted makes up 362,000 hectares. The apex of the Delta to Lokoja – 635,000 hectares, Niger/Sokoto Basin – 470,000 hectares, Niger Kaduna Basin – 150,000 hectares, Lower Niger: Jebba to Lokoja – 385,500 hectares, Benue River floodplain – 312,000 hectares, Hadejia Komadugu Yobe – 624,000 hectares, Cross River floodplains – 250,000 hectares, Imo River floodplains – 26,000 hectares, and Kwa Iboe – 7,000 hectares. There are no accurate measurements for the Ogun/Oshun floodplains, but the total freshwater available to us is 3,221,500 hectares. The question then becomes why can we not provide our own fish?

Aquaculture could be the best option to achieve local fish production. The production of fish on a controlled environment enables the farmer to predetermine his production process and forecast his yield, at a global level; aquaculture is one of the fastest growing food production sectors. At the moment, 22% of global fish production comes from aquaculture and over 60% of aquaculture production is from fresh water.

To be fair, Aquaculture in Nigeria has improved, production in 2007 amounted to 85,087 metric tonnes. However, it is not nearly enough. This brings us back to the points made by Yaro and Agber. We still have very low skill levels, and the required help is not getting through. This needs to change urgently, so we can meet our own internal fish demand first. A well fed nation, makes progress.

Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

One comment

  1. For Gods sake what’s the relationship btwn boko haram and fish??????????????

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