FISH SUPPLY DEFICIT: Bridging Gap, Boosting Protein Access
Shortfall Opens Wealth Opportunities In Value Chain
FISH remains the cheapest source of good protein in the diet of a greater population of Nigerians, and its quality, in terms of the nutritional value is impressive because of its rich display of amino acids (protein/body builder). Of even greater impact is the affordability of the protein source, as it is cheaper than beef, pork and other meat sources. In developing countries including Nigeria, about 60 per cent of the protein requirement comes from fish.
Though Nigeria’s per capita fish consumption of 11kg against a global average of 21kg is still low, there is yet not enough supply to meet national demand.
Available statistics on fish production and supply in Nigeria have shown a consistent shortfall in the supply of fish, either farmed fish via aquaculture or capture from the wild, in spite of the effort in the past few years to increase production.
According to the Federal Department of Fisheries (FDF), national demand in 2012 was 2,000,000 tonnes, with supply of 690,000 tonnes and a deficit of 1,329,000 tonnes; for 2014, there was demand of 2,175,000 tonnes, supply of 730,000 tonnes, leaving a deficit of 1,404,000 tonnes.
Though there was an increase in fish supply over the succeeding years, the growing population seemed to have paled the effort, especially from aquaculture.
In another breadth, Abba Abdullah, former President, Fisheries SON said the nation produced 1.7 million tonnes of fish from all fishing activities including aquaculture. He revealed that the actual fish-farming yield is about 600,000 metric tonnes, while demand is 2.6 million metric tonnes, leaving a huge shortfall.
There may be slight differences in the overall statistics, fact remains that for the shortfall, the nation continues to rely on importation, which has been a source of drain on the scarce foreign reserve. With the shortfall comes the opportunity for job and wealth creation as expressed at one of the fisheries stakeholders’ meeting in Lagos.
At that meeting held at the Nigerian Institute of Oceanography and Marine Research (NIOMR) last year, Dr. Olajide Ayinla, President, FISON, stakeholders estimated that over 10 million Nigerians are actively engaged in the upstream and downstream areas of fisheries operation.
In a 2014 publication of the American Journal of Experimental Agriculture, a team of Nigerian scientists led Emmanuel Ozigbo, Department of Agricultural and Bioresources Engineering, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, reviewed the state of fisheries in Nigeria.
The report showed that, ‘The fisheries sector accounts for about two per cent of national Gross Domestic Product (GDP), 40 per cent of the animal protein intake and a substantial proportion of employment, especially in the rural areas; the sector is a principal source of livelihood for over three million people in Nigeria.’
It advanced factors such as need for job creation, generation of supplementary income, nutrition improvement in rural areas, and creating multiple income channels for the development of aquaculture as attraction into fisheries business.
Challenges of fish production
Aquaculture as fish production investment is building up in Nigeria, but not without its hurdles that have affected its full development and management. Characteristically, experts identified, “low agricultural production, poor management of resources, economic stagnation, policy and political instability, lack of technical knowhow, increasing environmental damage, and severe poverty” as issues that call for intervention by both government and the private sector.
To bridge the supply gap has been the intense desire driving the Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA) of the past administration. The plan was to produce one million tonnes of table fish and 1.2 billion fingerlings by 2015, but given the change of guard at the ministry, it is only left to be seen if there would be continuity or not.
Even trawling business has been adversely affected by oil spillages and piracy in the Niger Delta area, where activities of these fishing vessels are mostly concentrated.
Following the importation of expired fish into the country in 2014 by a number of companies owned or managed by Asians, the ministry and the nation lost confidence in the willingness of these companies to follow laid plans to reduce imports and invest in local production. The former Minister made efforts to sanitise the sector and whip erring firms to line and move towards the ATA plan. Sanctions came down as cold rooms were put under lock and key, while unwholesome and expired products were destroyed, fish import quota was introduced with a view to encouraging aquaculture investment and importation scaled down towards increasing local production increased.
Lagos, mega-city consumption
WITH a burgeoning population now put at 18 million, its food demand remains top of the list and will for a long time be the centre of attraction for produce merchants.
According to figures from the Lagos State Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, in 2013, the target for fish production in Lagos State was 159,000 metric tonnes. However, due to the attainment of that mark, the 2014 production output was set at 230,000 metric tonnes as the demand in the state.
On Growth Enhancement Support scheme (GES) of the immediate past administration, and aquaculture value chain as it affects the catfish farmers in Lagos State was initially of great assistance; the GES bundle involving fingerlings, feed and veterinary drugs was well received. The package was a 50 per cent subsidy on fingerlings and five bags of fish feed for every registered member that applied.
However, Mr. Femi Ajala, President, Lagos State Catfish and Allied Farmers Association (LASCAFAN) revealed the second tranche of the GES was hijacked by the civil servants, who came up under many guises to deny members of the Association opportunities of the inputs.
Mr. Abiodun Ogunbona, another stakeholder and lecturer in fisheries at the Lagos State Polytechnic, Ikorodu campus, said there has been increase in fish production over the past decade, especially in aquaculture. He added that even Lagos State has overtaken Egypt presently and with government’s support, there would be reduction of import volumes. Such encouragement would be necessary for artisanal fish farmers, too.
Being involved in a project that focuses on Ikorodu fishing villages, which claim they have not had any support from the government since the Alhj. Lateef Jakande administration, Ogunbona said this has affected productivity in the state. He referred to the Awolowo legacy, as the place the Polytechnic is located used to be fish farm settlement in the late 60s and the school offers course and training in fisheries production till date.
Ogunbona, also the Vice Chairman of the Lagos State chapter of Fisheries Society of Nigeria (FISON) reported that many of the communities are affected by the absence of roads, schools and hospitals.
According to statistics by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), of Africa’s total output, Egypt was top in aquaculture production in 2010 with 920,000 tonnes, with Nigeria following in tow at 201,000 tonnes. In 2011, the output in Egypt and Nigeria rose to 986,820 tonnes and 221,000 tonnes respectively. However, reports show that Nigeria is the largest aquaculture producer south of the Sahara, and currently believed to have overtaken Egypt in aquaculture production.
How to determine good quality fish
While the nation clamours to get enough produced locally, and stave off the tide of importation, consumers need to be guided properly so as not to accept anything found in the market stalls or even freezers of superstores.
A former Director of Fisheries, Ms. Foluke Areola, at a briefing with the media said people should not be carried away by the cheapness of fish on display as purchase and consumption of bad product may spell danger to health.
Importantly, she said fish with sunken eyes, soft body on being depressed with the finger and accompanied with discoloration are physical signs that it has gone bad. When fish gives off bad odour, the product has become unwholesome, although it is not immediately obvious, especially if it is in the frozen state.
With a shorter time to grow fish than crops like cassava, yam, cocoa or oil palm, the attraction to make profitable investment in the sector is getting brighter by the day, according experts.
However, the most farmed fish is the Catfish, mainly due to the leaps made by researchers in breeding and adaptation over the years.
It has been conditioned to breed under the roof in the increasingly popular Water Recirculation System, where large quantities of fish can be produced in a short time, sometimes between 12-16 weeks to reach market weight.
In addition, at an average selling price of N400 per kilo, it commands more market price than many others and has good Return on Investment (ROI).
So, there has to be more investment in fish farming, with species such as catfish and tilapia (the less economically attractive species of the two in the local market) in order to, step wisely reduce imports. The other approach is to increase the monitoring of overfishing in deep sea to enable the water be naturally restocked.
Safer waters is a pre-requisite for trawler operations, therefore the government need to step up the presence of security patrol boats to protect trawlers.
The government requirement for operators in the sector to set up fish farms as part of the operational requirements that determine eligibility to bring in a certain quantity of fish should be sustained, experts advised. Already, some firms have started, but it should go beyond ‘window dressing.’