NORWAY is stepping up pressure on the Nigerian government to rescind its restrictions on the importation of stockfish as the economic impact of the restriction imports brought about by the need to conserve foreign exchange.
Made from cod, stockfish is a unique product only manufactured in Norway but the product is mainly consumed in Nigeria. Annually, Nigeria imports about 9,000 tonnes of Norwegian stockfish despite the country having its own 853km Atlantic coastline start stretches across the Bight of Bonny from Calabar to Badagry.
In the current hostile economic climate brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, the Nigerian government is badly strapped for cash, so has restricted the importation of 43 items in a bid to preserve scarce foreign exchange. Although imports are not specifically banned, the federal government has restricted stockfish importers from accessing foreign exchange, effectively killing the trade.
Speaking at the sensitisation and awareness seminar on food safety organised by the Norwegian Seafood Council in Lagos, their minister for fisheries and ocean policy, Bojmar Skjaran, said that the inclusion of stock fish on the list has made it more difficult for both Nigerian importers and Norwegian exporters to trade in the commodity. He added that stockfish is an important part of the businesses and culture of Norwegians, adding that the trade in the commodity dates back more than a 100 years.
Mr Skjaran said: “There is a growing demand for stock fish in Nigeria. However, we do have some challenges, with the main one being the inclusion of stockfish on the list of items that are restricted from accessing foreign exchange, which has made it more expensive for both importers and consumers of stock fish.
“In recent months, the situation has grown from bad to worse and the fish industry has reconfirmed the fact that stockfish prices may increase. There are many reasons why stock fish should be removed from list of items with foreign exchange restriction.
“Secondly the Norwegian government is not in competition with locally-produced fish in Nigeria. Norwegian stockfish is a good source of protein, it contains 80% of protein requirement of the consumers and it is low in fat.
“The Norwegian government will continue to work with the Nigerian government with a view to removing it from the list of items restricted from accessing foreign exchange.” Lein Knut, the Norwegian ambassador to Nigeria, added: “We think stockfish should get access to forex, we need better logistics in the ports of Nigeria, lower import taxes and less bureaucracy.”