The Federal Government has reiterated its commitment to address Nigeria’s incessant reliance on fish importation as Heineken Lokpobiri, the minister of state for agriculture pledged to support the creation of an enabling environment for private sector players to thrive.
Commissioning two fishing vessels acquired by one of the leading private fishing companies in the country, Atlantic Shrimpers Limited, he raised concerns that the nation’s total annual fish demand stands at 3.5 million tonnes, out of which Nigeria is producing only 1.1million tonnes from all sources, leaving a deficit of about 2.4 million tonnes to be supplemented by importation.
He added: “Our ultimate goal is to attain self-sufficiency in fish and aquaculture production. In this regard, my ministry is not only striving to create an enabling environment for the private sector to thrive and fill in the missing gap but we have in addition ensured that all fishing and fisheries regulations, especially within the marine environment are enforced.”
The minister said the industrial fishing companies in Nigeria under the auspices of Nigeria Trawlers Association of Nigeria (NITOA) are collaborating fully with the government in terms of ensuring best practices are employed in the exploitation of the marine resources.
“So far our ministry has elaborated the Inland Fisheries Regulation for Aquaculture including shrimps, to encourage investors in the fisheries and aquaculture sub-sector to facilitate the promotion of fish and shrimp culture for local consumption and export to international markets,” he said.
Lopkobiri who represented President Muhammadu Buhari at the occasion stated that government places serious emphasis on the fisheries and aquaculture sub-sector because its import to the agricultural sector of the economy as it contributes about 4.5 percent to the National Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Noting that the fisheries and aquaculture sub-sectors contributions are very significant to national food security, he listed employment creation, income generation, poverty alleviation, foreign exchange earnings, and the provision of raw materials for the food and animal feed industry as some of the gaps filled.
The vision of the present administration, according to him was to grow Nigeria’s Agricultural Sector to achieve a hunger-free Nigeria through agriculture that drives income growth, accelerates achievements of food and nutritional security, generates employment and transforms Nigeria into a leading player in global food and fish market.
He noted that the two ultra-modern fishing vessels by Atlantic Shrimpers Limited was in addition to the 70 existing vessels owned by the company, making it the highest number of fishing fleets and vessels in the fishing industry in the count.
He said: “The ministry is also opening up the deep sea, an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) for exploitation of her Tuna resources by issuing Letter of Assurances to companies to bring in Deep Sea Vessels into the country. Nigeria has joined the International Committee for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT). This is the only option open to us in terms of seafood security of the nation as we allow the inshore waters to rejuvenate back from the past fishing pressure.
“In addition, we are embarking on backward integration through commercial aquaculture for local consumption and export to international markets. In this regard I wish to mention that several companies have complied with the Ministry’s directive on the backward integration policy, including the Atlantic Shrimpers Limited, Triton Aqua Africa, Premium Aquaculture, Tilapia Developers Association of Nigeria (TADAN), just to mention but a few,” the minister explained