The Central Bank of Nigeria, has said that the foreign exchange, forex restriction imposed on importation of stockfish was to resuscitate the domestic fishery industries, conserve foreign exchange, and improve employment generation.
This follows revelations by the Norwegian Seafood Council that stockfish import to Nigeria from Norway declined by 5.9 percent to N3.2 billion in 2022 from N3.4 billion in 2021.
The Council has revealed that 10,740 metric tons of stockfish, comprising both the head and bodies were imported into the country in 2022, behind 14,997 and 13,845 metric tons of mackerel and herrings imported during the same period.
Speaking at the just concluded Norwegian Seafood Seminar held in Lagos, Director of Trade and Exchange Department for the CBN, Dr Ozoemena Nnaji, said that the apex bank had to include stockfish among the 43 items that have been restricted from accessing Forex due to the scarce foreign exchange currently being experienced in the country.
Represented by Mrs. Bukola Adenubi, an official of the apex bank, Nnaji also said that the forex restriction move was also meant to grow the local fishery capacity of Nigerians with a view to exporting Nigerian aquatic products.
He said: “CBN in an effort to conserve scarce foreign exchange restricted access to 43 items including stockfish in 2015.
“The aim of the restriction is to conserve forex, resuscitation of domestic industries and improve employment generation. Note that the restriction is not a ban on import but a restriction on access to FX”.
Meanwhile, Mr Trond Kostveit, Director Africa, Norwegian Seafood Council, urged the Federal Government to reconsider the removal of stockfish from the list, saying: “We started the process three years ago to see if it is possible to delist stockfish from foreign exchange ban because there are many good arguments why the product should not be on the list.
“The forex restriction has made the price of stockfish in local markets quite expensive, especially for consumers.
“The cost of getting forex at the parallel market is taking a toll on stockfish imports. For consumers, stockfish heads are the only source of proteins.
“It will be very beneficial if the forex restriction can be lifted and we can get access to the official exchange rate and thereby, reduce the cost of the fish for consumers,” Kostveit said.
He noted that Norway was not competing with any Nigeria local fish species.
“We understand the forex restriction is made to promote local aquaculture production but the product is not a threat to Nigerian aquaculture.
“When we tried to say that stockfish has become such an important part of the Nigerian diet and it is very important, that we make it cheaper.