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Fish farmers demand palliatives, free movement of products

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A fish pond

As the era of lockdown to contain the spread of COVID-19 pandemic lingers, the Association of Catfish and Allied Fish Farmers of Nigeria (CAFFAN) has called on the federal and state government to extend palliatives to its members to avoid collapse of the stressed agricultural sub-sector.

A statement made available to The Guardian by the National President of the association, Mr Rotimi Oloye, said the pandemic had come and the effect could be long-lasting, saying, “It will bring starvation because food production and availability will be badly affected.”

The association its members are unable to feed, harvest, process and sell their fish, leading to loss, theft and unprofitable production as a result of higher cost of feeds, medicaments and associated expenses.

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“A lot of farm products that cannot get to consumers will be wasted. A lot of agricultural investment will be wasted. Farmers will abandon food production if they are not assisted this time. Human health will be affected as survivors will scramble for the little available food,” Oloye said.

Suggesting the way forward, the government, he said, must be proactive, help to support families with good and balanced diet, assist food production on a higher scale and buy up farm products that lack patronage because of lack of fund and restricted movement.

As part of the palliatives, CAFFAN demanded that the government add processed home-grown fishery products (catfish) to energy foods being distributed to the poorest of the poor and internally displaced persons’ camps.

“Use of smoked catfish as protein food to treatment/isolation/ IDP camps across the country, provide cold room facilities for food items like catfish across the country and grant special permit for movement of catfish and its products,” the association stated.

Oloye explained that the farmers have challenges accessing their farms, and “the security agents do not give farmers opportunities to move unless they are settled, and this is adding to cost of production that is already on the high side due to high naira-dollar rate used in importing more than 70 per cent of our inputs like fish meal, hormones and other additives like lysine and methionine.”

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He suggested that the government and politicians should buy fish products as they buy rice, garri and other farm products for onward distribution to the poor as palliatives.

He added that fish is being proposed because of its nutritional values, especially the smoked ones that can last a reasonable time on the shelf.

“The permit to move fishery products from regions of production to areas of need within Nigeria will help farmers. The reason for the permit is to curb losses and at the same time help in getting foodstuffs to where they are needed for consumption,” CAFFAN stated.

Head of Department, Fishery and Aquaculture Management, University of Ibadan, Prof. Jenyo Oni, also disclosed that the cost of smoked fish inputs such as fresh catfish, charcoals and labour had become very unreasonable, making the production unsustainable.

For instance, she disclosed, a bag of charcoal, sold at N1000 before the lockdown, had gone up by 30 to 40 per cent, adding significantly to the cost of producing smoked catfish.

Charcoal is burnt in kilns to smoke catfish, after which the product can last for over six months if kept in dry cool places.

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