By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
Fish farmers under the auspices of the National Fish Association of Nigeria, NFAN, Sunday, lamented huge losses, glut, and business collapse over the impact of lockdown resulting from the novel Coronavirus, COVID-19, pandemic.
The National President, NFAN, Dr. Gabriel Ogunsanya, disclosed this in a statement signed by the National Publicity Secretary, Chidike Ukoh, and made available to Vanguard.
Ogunsanya in the statement raised challenges currently faced by members of the association including inadequate fish supply, production challenges, and personal sacrifices, fish glut, abysmally low pricing, and the inability to harvest and evacuate fish ponds and other fish-holding water bodies, thereby preventing restocking to break the production cycle.
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According to him in the same vein, thousands of fish capture farmers in the South-South region comprising Rivers, Bayelsa and Akwa – Ibom States were thrown out of business not long ago as a result of alien poisoning incident that caused massive fish and aquatic life mortality in the creeks and coastline water bodies between March and April 2020 in the affected States.
The statement reads in part, “Following recent outcry by our fish farmers and industry operators across the country, the leadership of National Fish Association of Nigeria (NFAN), the umbrella body of Fisheries and Aquaculture industry subsector in Nigeria, hereby passionately call on the Federal Government to come to the aid and rescue fellow patriotic and enterprising fish farmers in distress.
“During the first two months of the COVID-19 Pandemic lockdown in the country, our farmers and industry operators suffered huge losses. NFAN leaders had to intensify efforts and made a strong case before Exemption Duty Pass was granted us from the Presidential Task Force COVID-19 Pandemic, Inter-Ministerial Emergency Operations Centre, so that our products and input supply services started moving further from late April 2020.
“Our members observed and complied with the official rules of engagement, cooperating with security agencies on duty while contributing more to the critical national food security during this emergency period.
“However, we now have serious concerns that in the midst of obvious inadequate fish supply, production challenges, and personal sacrifices, our farmers are currently facing unbelievable fish glut, abysmally low pricing and the inability to harvest and evacuate the ponds and other fish-holding water bodies, thereby preventing restocking to break the production cycle.
“In the same vein, thousands of fish capture farmers in the South-South Region comprising Rivers, Bayelsa and Akwa – Ibom States were thrown out of business not long ago. This is as a result of a government order to enable investigations and thorough cleaning of alien poisoning incident that caused massive fish and aquatic life mortality in the creeks and coastline water bodies between March and April in the affected States.
“From inventory records, NFAN has the capacity within established members’ facilities to off-take for processing the mature fishes from different farm locations in the country to prevent post-harvest losses and make smoked fish available in the markets and for the national food bank and this requires intervention funding.”
The statement also called for a declaration of a state of emergency in the fisheries and aquaculture industry in order to salvage the situation of struggling fish farmers, especially now.
They also demanded urgent palliative measures and economic stimulus in order for them to remain in business amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are convinced and highly encouraged going by the policy directive and goodwill of the Honorable Minister of Agriculture Alh. Sabo Nanono who gave us hope during NFAN leaders meeting with him February 4, 2020, that as we carry on with the mandate and/ or task to meet national fish demand threshold in two years, our farmers also will in the present circumstances, need to receive some relief/ palliatives and economic stimulus packages to remain in business as the PTF on COVID-19 Pandemic extended to others.
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“We, therefore, pray the Federal Government to consider the declaration of a state of emergency and implement a structured marshal plan to revamp the struggling Fisheries and Aquaculture industry subsector in the country.
“We also look up to our line Federal Ministries of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Industry, Trade and Investment which established NFAN as an umbrella body to now bring government, relevant MDAs and funding bodies’ attention to bear on the prevailing plights of the hard-working fish farmers and industry operators in order to sustain our contributions to national food security and income generation across the board.
“We are committed and open to further discussion on these issues and more prospects for purposes of national development”, it added.