By Ginika Okoye
Abuja – The Federal Government says it will stop issuing fish importation quota to importers, saying that the venture was no longer sustainable.
Sen. Heineken Lokpobiri, the Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, said this during a meeting with the Ijebu Development Initiative on Poverty Reduction (IDIPR) in Abuja on Tuesday.
The minister said that stopping the trade would help boost local production of fish and other aspects of agriculture in the country.
According to him, the current deficit in fish in Nigeria is over two million tonnes and urged citizens to invest to boost fish production and create jobs in the sector.
“We realised that fish import is no more sustainable and what we did was to encourage those that import it to think of the backward integration by reducing the quota year by year in agreement with the CBN.
“Very soon, we are not going to give quota for fish importation. We want everybody to set up their fish farms, employ our people and create jobs for our people.
“When we came last two years, Nigeria was producing about 700,000 tonnes of fish but this has increased to about 1.2 million tonnes which means that there has been an increment of 400 tonnes.
“This increase represents more than 50 per cent of what we were producing,’’ he said.
Lokpobiri, who commended the IDIPR for contributing to fish production in the country, advised other states to emulate the community’s agricultural initiative.
He said the government would soon complete and commission the fish feed mill located at Eriwe village farm in Ijebu community of Ogun.
The minister quoted the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) as saying that Ijebu community had the highest number of fish clusters in the world.
Earlier, Prof. Olanipekun Alausa, the Chairman, Board of Directors of the initiative, listed some challenges hindering the agricultural initiative to include inadequate access to loans and lack of modern agricultural tools for mechanised farming.
Alausa, who said the initiative was currently supplying food items to nine local government areas in the state, appealed for more support from the Federal Government to enhance the initiative’s performance.
He said the scheme, which was established in 1999 as a non-governmental organisation, was geared toward community development to reduce poverty and improve the livelihood of people, using agriculture and micro-credit among others.
The chairman said the scheme was involved in poultry, piggery, bee-keeping and cocoa farming to ensure poverty reduction and contribute to agricultural development of the country.
“We want provision of access roads in the farm villages, access to direct credit and government’s grants toward our poverty reduction programme.
“The change in the life of the poor is visible as the needs and well-being of women and other disadvantaged groups in our community are being met.
“Hundreds of young graduates now see agriculture as a thriving business and cluster innovation farming platform has been proved beyond doubt that it is capable of making fortune,’’ the chairman said.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the scheme has micro-credit, enterprises and youth development, medical and health development as its four major mandates in its action plan to tackle poverty in the area. (NAN)