FishAccording to International Trade Center data, $3.49 billion in eggs from poultry, milk, dairy and fish products were imported into Nigeria in the past two years.

Within the reporting period, seafood products worth $2.14 billion were imported into the country, while dairy products worth $1.35 billion were brought into the country.

According to the International Trade Organisation, the fish products included: live fish, frozen fish, fish fillets and other fish meat, whether chopped or not, fresh, chilled or frozen; fish, dried, salted or in brine; smoked fish; flour, meal and grains of fish.

This includes crustaceans, whether in shell or not, live, fresh, chilled, frozen, dried, salted or in brine, even smoked; meal, powder and pellets of crustaceans; molluscs, whether smoked, whether in shell or not, live, fresh, chilled, frozen, dried, salted or in brine; meal, meal and granules of molluscs.

Meal, meal and pellets of fish, crustaceans, molluscs and other aquatic invertebrates were also imported.

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Imported dairy products included: milk and cream; buttermilk, curdled milk and cream, yogurt, kefir and other fermented or acidified milk and cream; whey; products consisting of natural milk components, with or without added sugar or other sweetening matter; butter, including dehydrated butter and ghee, and other milk-derived fats and oils; dairy spreads.

Imports also included cheese and curd; bird eggs, in shell, fresh, preserved or cooked; birds’ eggs, not in shell, and egg yolks, fresh, dried, steamed or boiled in water, moulded, frozen or otherwise preserved; natural honey; Turtle eggs, bird nests and other edible products of animal origin.

This is despite an acknowledgment by stakeholders that continued imports of fish and dairy products are depleting the country’s foreign reserves and the ability of local farmers to sell their products.

Recently, Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Mohammed Mahmood announced that the country’s annual fish import bill of about 2.4 million tons of frozen fish is taking its toll on its foreign exchange reserves.

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He said: “Nigeria is a very big country and we need about 3.6 million metric tons (MMT) per year, but we can only produce 1.2 MMT through craft, industrial and aquaculture.

“The shortfall is being made up by imports of frozen fish, which are used to bridge the gap. It’s not like we’re getting 2.5 million metric tons into the country, but we have a situation that we’re supplementing with frozen fish imports.”

He added: “However, it is regulated by the Central Bank of Nigeria because only the CBN governor issues Form-M to anyone who wants to bring frozen fish into the country so that the monetary toll in terms of foreign exchange used in the importing frozen fish is given by the CBN.”

According to the federal government, there were 10 million primary and secondary fish producers in the country. Speaking at the internal coordination meeting between African Union departments, Mahmood stated that the country was working to lower its fish import bill in conjunction with the private sector through backward integration.

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He revealed that to improve local production and reduce imports, the government encouraged backward integration through commercial aquaculture production for local consumption and export.

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