By Onome Amuge
The Stock-fish Dealers Association has urged the federal government to grant stock-fish importers access to foreign exchange to ensure efficiency in conducting their businesses.
Gregory Ilobinso, chairman of the association, bemoaned the challenges facing the stock-fish business as wholesalers, retailers, truck drivers and other stakeholders in the business have been affected by the difficulties of importing the commodity. Stockfish, he said, is one of 43 products that cannot access foreign exchange at the moment, leading to a shortage of the commodity in the market.
According to him, if the issue is not urgently addressed, Nigerians involved in the value chain are likely to lose their jobs and livelihood, further deepening the unemployment worries in the country.
“If importers want to bring in stock-fish, then we need to have an approved ‘Form M’ from the Central Bank of Nigeria with evidence of U.S dollars to finance the import. It takes from six months to one year to get a FORM M approved, and because of this, we cannot stock up the product,” he lamented.
Ilobinso identified the government’s economic diversification goal as one of the reasons for the CBN forex restriction but argued that stock-fish demand in the market far outweighs local production, necessitating importation to meet up with rising demand.
Buttressing the relevance of stock-fish in Nigerian markets, he explained that asides the consumption of the commodity in various meals and cuisines, which has become a tradition in many Nigerian homes, the commodity possesses a long shelf life that cannot be compared to any protein source as it can be kept in the kitchens for an average of two years.
He added that the permission to access forex will be an added advantage to the government in terms of increased revenue while alternative ways of getting the goods into the country will likely see the government miss out on this economic benefit.