Catfish exporters in Nigeria have lamented the ban on Nigeria’s processed catfish by the United State government, saying the decision has affected them negatively.
The American government banned the export of smoked Fish from Nigeria into the U.S. in March 2018.
One of the reasons for the ban was failure on the part of Nigeria to provide sufficient documentation within the required time frame, concerned parties say.
The president of the Catfish and Allied Fish Farmers Association of Nigeria (CAFFAN), Oloye Rotimi, said the impact of this ban on the industry is enormous.
He, therefore, appealed to the Nigerian government to intervene in helping to lift the ban because it has become injurious to the processed fish industry.
“It is our prayer that you will use your good offices to look into this issue and get the ban lifted; otherwise, the farmers and processors will be out of jobs. Apart from this, the earnings derivable from this source will not be forthcoming,” he said.
He explained that the Nigerian fish farmers are now in a serious predicament at the moment because the U.S. is a major market for them.
The president of the African Women Fish Processors and Traders Network, Oluwafunmilola Shelika, gave some insights on how the ban came to be.
“Firstly, there has been a communication gap between the US government and the Nigerian government, whereby they raised some issues concerning the way our processing was done before the fish is exported to the U.S.
“And one of the issues was residue which affects the quality of the fish because a whole lot of settlement either from the hanging or where the fish was being bred could affect them.
“We also had traceability issue, that is, from which farm we bought fish, the process that was taken before the fish came out … So, all of that were issues that were raised. They also said that tests should be carried out on the fish.
“Unfortunately, there was a communication gap, and it was not cascaded down to the stakeholders, and because of that, some of us that are already exporters, exported our fish and it was destroyed, some were returned,” she said.
She lamented that many exporters took loans to export catfish that were rejected, and that the government had not done much for the ban to be lifted.
“Those that are already in export, find it very difficult to compete with the already existing market here. Many of us, our factories became redundant, we couldn’t process, but we are hoping that someday, that ban will be lifted, and business will come back as usual,” she said.
She said the government needs to come to their aid as there is a need for more education for fish farmers and the processors. She explained that if the due process is adhered to, it would make everything better.
The managing director of Frija consult, Patricia Uwheraka, also lamented that the ban has affected those doing legitimate export.
She said the demand for Nigerian processed catfish had been very high until the ban.
“There’s no earnings for catfish export for now. I’ve moved on selling other types of fish. I add value to prawns, crayfish and periwinkles, and send for export,” Mrs Uwheraka said.
Mrs Oladosun of the Ministry of Agriculture’s fishery department told PREMIUM TIMES [news portal in Nigeria] that Nigeria has yet to receive response from the U.S.
Responding to what the government is doing to support catfish farmers, she said: “Government is doing capacity building for the fish farmers so that our products meet international market (standard).
“The issue didn’t start with processing, because no matter the processing, if the raw materials have issue, is rightly going to give problems to the consumer.”