BY KAZIE UKO
Nigeria and Norway may be heading for a face off following decision by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to include stockfish in the list of banned items to be imported into the country.
The Norwegian Seafood Council while protesting the ban has urged the CBN to reconsider the policy as it has a grave implication of not only affecting the bilateral trade between Norway and Nigeria, but also aggravate the dwindling protein requirements of Nigerians.
The council argued that stockfish is not found in Nigerian waters and will in no way affect the local content policy of the country.
Vanguard reports that at a two-day seafood seminar in Lagos, on Thursday, the Norwegian Minister of Fisheries and Seafood, Odd Emil Ingebrigtsen, said despite the popularity of stockfish in Nigeria, it does not pose a threat to the encouragement of increased local production of fish in Nigeria as the imported volume is relatively low.
He also contended that the importation of stockfish does not involve the repatriation of a lot of foreign currency as compared to other items on the CBN ban list.
He 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,” he added.
Also, Norwegian Ambassador to Nigeria Knut Eiliu Lein said that since stockfish was first imported to Nigeria in the 1890s it has remained an important part of the Nigerian cuisine, and wondered why the government would allow the policy deny its citizens such an important part of their protein requirements.
He 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.”
Also speaking, the Chairman, 1st Premier Stockfish Importers Association, Ilobinso Gregory said that considering that stockfish needed in the country cannot be grown and processed in Nigeria, there is a need to sustain its import.
He advised that rather than ban stockfish, the government should even reduce the current duty on the importation of stockfish to 10 percent, which will also lead to a reduction in prices of the good to the final consumer.