CATFISH farmers have urged the federal government to keep Nigeria’s borders closed because the current closure is a blessing to their industry as it has protected them from cheap foreign imports.
Earlier this year, Nigeria closed all her land borders with neighbouring countries, claiming that the influx of foodstuffs like sugar, rice and other items such as cement were hurting local producers. According to the government, Asian countries like China, Thailand and India in particular, were using Nigeria’s neighbours as a launch pad through which to dump their goods in the Nigerian market.
Exploiting a loophole in the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) protocol, these countries were shipping goods into Nigeria duty-free. Since the borders have been closed, goods have begun stockpiling in neighbouring countries like Benin Republic, Togo and Ghana as they are unable to access the Nigerian market.
Nigerian government officials have said the borders will only be re-opened when Ecowas member states can guarantee that imports will be locally produced, with at least 30% domestic content. However, the Catfish Farmers Association of Nigeria (Cfan), wants the border closure to remain for the foreseeable future as the development is a blessing to its members.
Rotimi Oloye, the Cfan president, said that while the borders were open, illegal activities went on as some fishery and poultry products were imported which did not better the lots of the farmers. He said that since the borders were closed, however, fish farmers were back to work with increased production, more employment and wealth generated and adequate sustenance of the industry was being witnessed.
Mr Oloye added: “We were having very serious issues at hand before the border closure as fish was everywhere in the country. Farmers were begging to sell even on credit despite poor pricing because continuous holding means increased costs for feeding, security and interest on borrowed funds.
“However, two weeks after the border closure, there was no fish to meet demand again. When there is reduction in the smuggling of fish, especially frozen and low-quality fish from outside Nigeria, the demand for local fish will surely increase.
“Whatever is needed to be done to sanitise our trade with our neighbours should be maintained, otherwise it becomes easier to stop production than producing what will take you into debt. It is what a country produces that makes its gross domestic product (GDP), therefore, we must do everything possible to sustain production, as food is important.
“The population of the country can take whatever we produce. If the borders are our problem despite the presence of control posts and officers paid to man such posts, let it be closed for eternity.”
He said the fish farmers had always been on duty and would continue to do their best to ensure adequate production to meet demand in the country. According to Mr Oloye, his members must work to survive, pay bills and will try to increase production.
“Government should continue the closure of land borders since it cannot distribute enough cash to all of us, the social service of the closure is more than money distribution. Consumers should stay with us as we shall continue to secure quality fish for them,” Mr Oloye added.