THE Fishery sub-sector of the maritime trade group of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines, and Agriculture, NACCIMA, are counting their losses following restrictions in their operations as a result of the outbreak of coronavirus, COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking to reporters Maritime Report, the chairperson of the group, Mrs. Margaret Orakwusi, said that while their fishing trawlers were locked down in the waters sea pirates were also feasting on them.
She said that export of sea foods to Europe and other parts of the world have been stalled due to the COVID-19 restrictions. According to her the losses incurred by operators run into billions of naira adding that individual companies are currently compiling their specific losses.
On loss of jobs as a result of the lockdown, Orakwusi said that the operators have a way they deal with shocks in the sub-sector noting that while some of the ship crew members are kept-in-wait, operators work with essential staff.
On the way forward, Orakwusi stated: “We have written to the government through the various platforms we all belong to, we have filled all sorts of forms saying exactly how COVID-19 is affecting us and we are also asking for palliatives because the bank loans on most of the stranded fishing vessels are still running.
“Whereby, we are not able to work at full capacity, some may struggle to pay back the loan; some will also struggle with the high interest rates and most of our operational activities are in US dollar denominated and movement in naira makes the dollar more expensive, affecting our operating cost adversely.
“All these we have documented and we want everybody to know the importance of fishing; we are about 200million in population and fish is the cheapest source of protein and we need to encourage investment in industrial fishing so that we will be able to feed our people because right now over 60 percent of the fish consumed in this country are imported. Moreover, on health ground, these imported products are not fresh and nobody can guarantee where they are coming from, we do not know whether they are being brought from contaminated or polluted environment and these are the things we need to guard against.”
Reacting to the development, Mrs. Abiodun Cheke, a Fishery consultant said that 75 percent of fishing trawlers in Nigeria did not go to sea during the period of the lockdown adding that 90 percent of fishing trawlers in Nigeria are owned by foreigners.
Cheke also said that fish imported into Nigeria are well supervised as the country of origin is well known to every player in the value chain.
On how to assist fishing trawlers, she said that the government can give soft loans of about N15million – N20million and help them re-schedule their bank loans.