The Stockfish Dealers Association on Thursday appealed to the Federal Government to grant its importer members access to the Foreign Exchange (forex) official windows to source foreign currencies needed to boost their stockfish importation business.
A news report by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) indicated that the leadership of the association made the call in an interview on the sidelines of its ongoing 2-day Seafood Seminar in Lagos.
The group’s Chairman, Mr. Gregory Ilobinso, was quoted as saying that access to forex will ease stockfish importation business and by implication, enhance the dealers’ profitability.
He explained: “Stock-fish is one of 43 products that cannot access foreign exchange. “If importers want to bring in stockfish, then we have to have an approved ‘Form M’ from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) with evidence of U.S. dollars to finance the import.
“It takes from six months to one year to get a Form M approved, and because of this, we cannot stock up the product. That is why we are appealing to the Federal Government to allow us access to forex to enable us import stockfish. Getting forex for our businesses has been a big challenge.
“We understand Federal Government’s stance that the oil market is volatile, forexis not in steady supply but the cost of accessing dollars for stockfish is not so much compared to other commodities,’’ Ilobinso said.
The stockfish dealer stressed the nutritional benefits of stockfish to Nigerians and the need for government to ensure ease of accessing forex for the importers.
He elaborated: “There is no substitute, alternative or competition for stockfish in Nigerian cuisines. Stock fish has its own place and adds its own flavour to Nigerian meals. Eating and using stockfish for meals has become a tradition and a delicacy for us. Stockfish is also used as a souvenir and gifts that our people appreciate.
“It has a long shelf life that cannot be compared to any protein source; it can be kept in the kitchens for an average of two years. During the Nigerian civil war due to the outbreak of kwashiorkor, the World Council of Churches imported stockfish to help solve the protein-deficiency”, Ilobinso recalled.
He explained that hardship of importers on foreign exchange sourcing for stockfish would impact negatively on a lot of people in its value-chain, with the attendant implications for wholesalers, retailers, truck drivers, mechanics and loaders losing their means of livelihood.
The stock fish dealer pointed out that “if we are allowed to access forex, it will be an added benefit to the government in terms of increased revenue, adding that if these goods find alternative ways of getting into the country, the government will likely lose revenue from its importation.”