By John Omoaka
The Norwegian Seafood Council has charged Nigerian importers and government regulatory agencies to stop categorising stockfish imports as animal feeds.
Speaking at the Norwegian Seafood Seminar held at Eko Hotel & Suites in Lagos on Wednesday, the Fisheries Consultant to the Norwegian Seafood Council in Nigeria and former Deputy Director in the Federal Department of Fisheries, Ms Abbey Cheke said aside from the nutritional value of stockfish, stockfish does not compete with any fishing process in Nigeria and asked relevant authorities to stop listing stockfish as animal feeds.
“Stockfish and stockfish heads are processed from the finest of codfish which can only be found in the coldest of waters and can never be produced in our Nigerian water. This then affirms that stockfish and stockfish heads do not compete and certainly pull any threat to the local fish production in the country.
“Stockfish head is not animal feeds as it is sold for human consumption in all our local markets and supermarkets and it is eaten by virtually all the tribes in the Nigerian society.
“Effort should be made by the relevant organization/regulator to stop the practice whereby stockfish heads is being imported into the country under false declaration of animal feeds by dubious importers,” she said.
Nine months after stakeholders in the fishing industry called on the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to lift the ban on foreign exchange for importation of stockfish heads into Nigeria, the Council lamented that the CBN was yet to lift the ban.
The Norwegian Seafood Council, Director Africa, Mr Trond Kostveit, said they are still in talks with the Federal Government of Nigeria.
“In February we organized stakeholders meeting here in Lagos with the Norwegian Ambassador. We produced a communiqué and the communiqué was passed to the CBN. We work all the time to improve the relationship between Nigeria and Norway for the importation of seafood in general especially stockfish,” he said.
Despite the serious challenges in the world economy and the prevailing logistics problems the Norwegian seafood export to Nigeria was reasonably good. The value of the seafood import from Norway was close to $75 million USD and the quantity was close to 40,000 metric tonnes of seafood. The dominating products are Stockfish, Stockfish heads, Herring and Mackerel.
On his part, the Royal Norwegian Ambassador, Mr Knut Eiliv Lein, assured the stakeholders of partnering with Nigeria in the areas of making stockfish cheaper for the populace and asking the Federal Government of Nigeria to allow forex access to Stockfish.
“We are here basically to discuss ways to bringing stockfish to the Nigerian markets and to make stockfish cheaper. We also need the Nigerian government to help us to allow stockfish get access to forex. We need better logistics at the port, lower taxes and less bureaucracy,” he said.
The world has seen an improvement of the challenges post by the pandemic, but for the seafood export and import there are still logistical challenges in the market.
The Norwegian Minister for Fisheries and Ocean Policy, Rt Hon. BjornarSkjaeran, who joined the seminar virtually, said the seafood council is working closely with the importers of seafood in Nigeria for several years.
“The council has organized seminars that are meeting arenas enabling direct contact between exporters and importers. We are seeking to spread good information about the quality of the products, the nutritional level, various ways to cook the seafood, how to store the seafood to assure food safety and make sure that the quality of the seafood remains high until it ends on the table of the consumers.” he said.
One of the major exporters of stockfish in Norway, Ole Olsen highlighted the challenges facing the importation of stockfish.
“We are here to see and hear what our customers say and what their customers are saying in the market. The general feedback is the cost which is a major challenge. We want to do everything we can to help with the situation. Because what we are seeing is that many importers are struggling because of the forex which of course means that the policy is working in the opposite way of what the intention was. This means that we should try to address the policy to help the customers and the Nigerian importers,” he assured.
Among the guests that attended the seminar include: The Norwegian Ambassador to Nigeria, Ambassador Knut Lein; Deputy Director, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, Dr Tunde Sigbeku; DC Enforcement, Nigerian Customs Service, Felicia Num; Federal and state ministries, parastatals and agencies, and industry stakeholders.
The Norwegian Seafood Council’s activities started on Tuesday evening with a Special Rendition of Excerpts from the Presentation of the Norwegian Stockfish Opera with performances with Nigerian Cultural Dancers and Artists at the Muson Center, Lagos together with a Seafood Dinner where the Chefs from the Workshop were present.