Influx of fake Titus fish troubles farmers, marketers
• It Has Horrible Taste-Vendor
• FG Should Pass Fisheries Laws And Regulations- Ashagye,
• We Want Outright Ban On Importation-TADAN
• It is Caused By Corruption-Oyekoya
Consumers and other stakeholders in the fish industry are worried by influx of ‘counterfeit’ Mackerel fish, popularly called Titus fish into the Nigerian market.
Mackerel fish is an important fish specie consumed worldwide. As an oily fish, it is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. It has elongated body with long and pointed snout. Its main body coloration is steel-blue, marked with wavy black lines dorsally and silvery-white ventrally. It has two spiny dorsal fins, which are spaced far apart.
Findings show that cold room operators are concentrating more on procuring the fake fish, as it is cheaper compared to the original type, a development that has made it enjoy more patronage from unsuspecting consumers. While the real mackerel fish goes as high as N600 to N700, the fake can be purchased for as low as N300 to N350.
Though the practice, according to findings started last year, the rate at which it is circulating in frozen food outlets has heightened fears of its impact on consumers.
Findings show it is a bit difficult to identify the fake fish in frozen foods outlets and open markets, as it has same features, in terms of size, colour and texture with the original. It is only after it is cooked and eaten that the difference could be easily detected. The Guardian learnt that the fake fish is tasteless and less nutritious.
A survey in some of the popular markets in Lagos, including Ile-Epo, Agege, Oyingbo, Mushin, Isolo, Iyana-Ipaja, Agbado Kollington, Agbado Station and Mile 12 markets, shows that majority of fish vendors are ignorant of the development, as they cannot actually differentiate the adulterated fish from healthy ones.
An agribusiness strategist, Prince Wale Adekoya, who gave a full description of the fake fish, said it has a plastic texture and foams when cooked. He noted that when eaten, it is not easily digested.
A frozen food outlet operator in Agege area, Mrs. Nnena Uche told The Guardian that she is fast losing customers, as they are complaining bitterly about the taste of the fish when cooked. She said she was not aware of the circulation of the fake fish at the initial stage, noting that based on the development, she has stopped buying Mackerel fish in the last six weeks.
“Titus is one of the most nutritious fishes with a lot of health benefits. Its taste and nutritious benefits attracts a lot of people, but it is unfortunate that people are very scared of buying it now, especially due to its horrible taste. The Titus fish currently in circulation could be hazardous to health and buyers should be wary of this as what distributors have in their cold rooms now are not original Titus.”
A food vendor, Madam Ojuolape Ibrahim, who also confirmed the development, expressed worry over the possible health impact of the substandard fish. According to her, since no one has been able to test the effect of the fake fish on consumers due to its difference from the normal fish, people might be eating poison gradually, as it might have serious health impact later.
“The last time I cooked the fish, the sweetness was no longer there. My brother, I couldn’t really explain what it tasted like. We want government to do something before they kill us with fake fish in Nigeria.”
“There is need for the Federal Government to set up a task force on frozen fish; to visit cold rooms, the same way Customs officials are doing on smuggled rice.
“Government also needs to mandate the Department of Fishery under the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Consumer Protection Council (CPC) and Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), to clamp down on the importers of these fake Titus fish.”
National Vice President, Tilapia and Aquaculture Developers Association of Nigeria (TADAN), Nurudeen Tiamiyu, tasked government to stop importation of the fish, noting that unwholesome tilapia fish is also entering the country through the back doors. “The smuggled fish will not allow local producers to get ready-made markets. Farmers are producing a lot, and can only meet the fish deficit if given the enabling environment.
“We want an outright ban on the importation of these dangerous fishes because as long as people are getting this cheap import, the tilapia grown in Nigeria will never compete with them. The basic challenge has to do with pricing, this fish comes from China with no tariff, so they are selling at cheaper rates to kill the local industry,” he said.
National Chairman, Fisheries Cooperative Federation of Nigeria, Anthony Ashagye, also called for more support for the fishery sub sector, stating it has competitive and comparative advantage more than other agro sub-sectors.
He called on government to pass the Fisheries Laws and Regulations, while also calling for government to grant waiver on feed to assist the farmers remain in business.
To the agribusiness strategist, Oyekoya: “With most of these adulterated food items, nobody is in control; even the regulatory bodies are not regulating anything.
“Nigeria has no business importing fish with the water that surrounds us and with the technical knowhow of the farmers.
We do not have business importing fish and with the technical know-how that we have and with the farmers. “When I travelled to China, I saw how they are raising their fish, and you see it in every household, with unapproved feeds, because nobody is really regulating them, and so they just feed the fish with anything, some of them use maggots to feed the fish. I don’t care attitude is really killing us and it is only the government that can stop it.”
“Corruption is what is really killing us in this country, you cannot tell me that the Customs does not know when these adulterated products come into the country, and if you look at the importers, they are the big companies. To me, it is our government that is not helping Nigeria.”
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