Why US may not lift ban on processed fish, others soon

Processing cat fish

• Ban Can’t Be Lifted Till Challenges Are Addressed — FCFN
• Govt Is Working To Remove Trade Barrier — NAQS

Those waiting to see the United States lift ban on Nigerian processed fish may have to wait a little longer. This is based on feelers that Nigeria is not close to meeting the necessary requirements.

National President, Fisheries Cooperative Federation of Nigeria (FCFN), the apex body of fisheries cooperative societies, unions and federation in states, Evang. Anthony A. Ashagye, told The Guardian that the ban was due to inability of exporters to meet the international certification standard. He disclosed that the ban will not be lifted, except all issues facing the industry are adequately addressed.

Head of Department, Aquatic Resources Quarantine of National Agriculture Quarantine Service (NAQS), Uwechi Alozie, also corroborated this, saying the ban can only be lifted when Nigeria fulfills the certification requirements of the US.

Since February, the country’s processed fish has been denied access to the US market, a development that negatively impacts on the domestic market.

The ban on all fish products from Nigeria is due to failure of government to fully supply information requested in the Self Reporting Tool (SRT) before the due date.

Some sources told The Guardian that some markets in Canada and Europe have joined the fray, as they have also begun restricting entry of the country’s fishery products.

“Our major problem is that we are not meeting the required certification standard for exportation of catfish and other fishery products. The way we handle our fish, process and market them fall short of current international standard. Many countries no longer want Nigerian fish, but we are working on the challenges with government to see how we can overcome the challenges and make our fish accepted across the globe.

“All fisheries associations are coming together to galvanize ideas. We are not relenting and we will not relent. The ban cannot be lifted except all the challenges are addressed,” Ashagye said.

Alozie, who assured that government is working to remove the barrier, said it was majorly due to failure to meet up with the US equivalent status of inspection.

“They gave us between October 2016 and October 2017 to do this, but we could not meet up. They extended it till February 2018, yet we could not meet up, which resulted to the ban from March.

“There are certain areas they want us to address. They want us to take samples, know the feeds and chemicals used. They want to know the residual unit; so, it is until we meet the standard before the ban would be lifted. We had a similar issue with the EU around 2005, before they approved our fishery products entry into their countries. So, we are on it.”

Ashagye said many of the importers are currently facing serious challenges, as they are losing money, seeking government’s intervention to put an end to the development.

He said: “The demand for our fish is high outside, but in the area of processing and exporting, we have not reached the European Union’s standard and that is why those exporting are facing challenges in the market. Now, the Federal Department of Fisheries and other fishery organisations are currently working out means of certifying our fish. We even want to upgrade our fish farms.

“We are currently operating at a risk because we don’t have fisheries law and regulations. There is nothing to guide the department of fisheries and as a result many people from outside the country are afraid to invest in the industry.”

Quoting National President, Catfish and Allied Fish Farmers Association of Nigeria (CAFFAN), Mr. Oloye Rotimi, who last week in Abuja, identified negligence on the part of civil servants as one of the causes of the ban, Ashagye said this is true because there was a document they needed to work on through the United States Department for Agriculture that was requested for three times, but they could not come up with it, so America banned our processed fish.

“Other African countries are taking advantage of Nigeria; they will come here, take our products, package them as if they are from Ghana or Kenya and send to US. I have been there and I have studied some of the African shops in America, the fish that comes from Nigeria is the best.”

He noted lack of access to finance, marketing, cost of inputs and dearth of knowledge of the industry, as major challenges facing the industry.

Nigeria has recorded tremendous growth in fish production in recent years, as output has increased from less than 500,000 metric tones in 2011 to 1.1 million metric tones in 2017, according to data from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture.

But stakeholders believe the growth may not be sustained due to this lingering ban. This is already evident in the country’s second quarter GDP report.

The fishing industry, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) nosedived in the second quarter of 2018 to 1.4 per cent from a growth of 4.3 per cent recorded in the previous quarter.

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CAFFANFCFNUwechi Alozie
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