The Norwegian Seafood Council has expressed its opposition to the inclusion of stockfish in Nigeria’s list of prohibition food items to be imported into the country.
Expressing his country’s concerns over the monetary policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on Thursday at a two-day Seafood Seminar in Lagos, the incumbent Minister of Fisheries and Seafood, Norway, Odd Emil Ingebrigtsen, said stockfish as a popular food item in the country did not pose any threat to local production as the imported volume remains relatively small.
Ingebrigtsen contended that the importation of stockfish did not entail the repatriation of huge foreign exchange when compared to other items on the list.
The minister said: “Stockfish and stockfish heads are unique products produced in a unique environment in Norway in order to give it the very special and sought-after taste. We urge the Nigerian government to reconsider its policy in order to boost the bilateral trade between the two countries.
In his remarks at the forum, the Norwegian Ambassador to Nigeria, Amb. Knut Eiliu Lein, recalled that since the first importation of stockfish into Nigeria in the 1890s it had remained an important part of the Nigerian cuisine, and expressed concern about why the government would approve a policy that is denying its citizens an important part of their protein requirements.
The envoy said: “Let me also say here that stockfish heads are currently more or less the most affordable fish proteins for the majority of Nigerians in the low-income bracket.
“Many livelihoods depend on stockfish trade as both men and women are involved in the sales in all the Nigerian markets. I understand that Nigerian government should protect the growing fish industry but while building the domestic capacity, the government also should focus on removing challenges to trade that benefits the Norwegians and Nigerians”, Lein advocated.
The Norwegian Seafood Council, therefore, appealed to the monetary authorities to reconsider the policy in view of the grave implications for bilateral trade between Norway and Nigeria and protein deficiency in the citizens.
It would be recalled that the CBN in 2015 first listed some 42 items not valid for Foreign Exchange (forex) window in the country but both imported pelagic fish and stockfish were not included on the list.
The recent updating of the list restricted stockfish and stockfish heads importation into the country.