The value of stockfish imports to Nigeria from Norway fell by 27 per cent from over N43 billion ($103.5 million) in 2021 to N31.53 billion ($76.4 million) in 2022, according to figures released by the Norwegian Seafood Council (NSC).
The NSC noted that this reduction is significant, including a 53 per cent dip in the value of stockfish imports in October 2022, from 30,700 tonnes to 14,400 tonnes.
The group attributed the general downturn in the Nigerian market and the decline in stockfish imports to factors such as the country’s recession, high inflation, and forex scarcity.
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Nigeria’s economy has been facing challenges in recent years, with rising inflation, unemployment, and a depreciating currency. In addition, the country has been grappling with a forex shortage, which has made it difficult for importers to obtain the dollars they need to pay for imports.
Not only stockfish, but also other imported species have been affected by the economic situation in Nigeria. According to the NSC, herring imports to the country from Norway fell by 95 per cent in both volume and value, while mackerel imports decreased by 47 per cent in volume and 40 per cent in value.
Speaking at a stakeholders’ meeting organised by the NSC in Lagos, Svein Beara,the Norwegian Ambassador to Nigeria attributed the inability of importers to access forex from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as a key factor contributing to the decline in stockfish imports.
The Norwegian ambassador emphasized that the Norwegian government will continue to support Nigerian fish farmers to enter the European market, provided they meet the necessary quality and safety standards. He noted that the Norwegian government is committed to promoting sustainable fishing practices and ensuring that fish products meet the highest quality and safety standards.
Tronds Kostveit, director for Africa at the Norwegian Seafood Council, spoke about the market penetration of Norwegian stockfish in Nigeria, as well as the benefits of the relationship between the two countries. He stressed the high quality of Norwegian stockfish and its importance in Nigerian cuisine, noting that it is a key ingredient in many traditional Nigerian dishes.
Kostveit noted that Nigeria has expressed interest in expanding aquaculture production, similar to the approach taken in Norway, where aquaculture has become an important part of the seafood industry. To support this initiative,he said the Norwegian Seafood Council organised a four-day seminar to share best practices and expertise in aquaculture and the export of fish products.
Abiodun Cheke, a consultant for the NSC in Nigeria, stated that Norway and Nigeria have a long history of trade relations, which have been strengthened by the recent decision of the CBN to lift the forex restriction on stockfish. Cheke noted that this policy change is expected to create new opportunities for trade and investment between the two countries, and will benefit both the Nigerian and Norwegian economies.
She said: “The NSC will increase its assistance to Nigeria in terms of quality assurance and training, and Norway has a special window for Nigerian fish farms to enter Norway with zero per cent import duty. The relationship between the two countries is also expected to promote the consumption of Nigerian local fish and advance Nigeria’s blue economy.”
In his keynote address, Abubakar Kyari, Nigeria’s minister of agriculture and food security, highlighted the importance of fish as a source of nutrition and animal protein, noting that it accounts for over 20 per cent of the average intake of animal proteins and essential fatty acids for half of the world’s population. He also noted that the seafood industry plays a significant role in the Nigerian economy, contributing to international trade and food security.
In addition to its economic contribution, Kyari noted that the seafood industry also provides employment opportunities throughout the value chain, from fishing and processing to marketing. Fishing and its related activities support the livelihoods of many small-scale fishermen and fisherwomen in Nigeria, especially those living in coastal and riverine areas. The minister emphasised the need to support these communities and to ensure the sustainability of the seafood industry.