The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Muhammad Sabo Nanono has reaffirmed the Federal Government’s commitment towards improving the Aquaculture sub-sector, increase domestic production of fish to reduce importation of frozen fish into the country and growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the Agric sector. He stated that the Ministry under the Present Administration is pursuing a holistic approach to the development of Fisheries and Aquaculture Sub-Sector through the diversification Programme of Mr President along the value chain process, adding that development of the nation’s fisheries and aquaculture sector is highly critical to this.

Speaking during the International Dialogue on the Transformation and Future of Aquatic Food Systems in Nigeria, held today at the Chelsea Hotel, Central Business District, Abuja, the Minister who was represented by the Director, Fisheries and Aquaculture Department, Dr Ime Umoh. He said ‘’the important role of fish in food and nutrition security cannot be overemphasized, being a good source of protein for a human diet containing essential amino acids required by humans in the right quantities which are usually lacking in most national staple foods; Fish, therefore, remains a valuable nutritional supplement and a virile candidate for addressing food and nutrition security in Nigeria’’.Nanono stated that despite the potential impacts of the fisheries and aquaculture resources, the sector is however confronted with numerous challenges including the high cost of inputs, use of unimproved breeds in aquaculture, need for improved access to finance.

He pointed out that the ministry is willing to engage and partner with all stakeholders for the development of the sector for economic development, wealth and job creation as well as food and nutrition security. The minister informed that ‘’ the vision of Mr President is to grow Nigeria’s Agricultural Sector to achieve a hunger-free Nigeria through Agriculture that drives income growth, accelerates achievements of food and nutritional security, generates employment and transforms Nigeria into a leading player in global food/fish market to create wealth for millions of practitioners’’.He expressed optimism that ‘’ the outcome of this dialogue will feed into the development of a consolidated country report.

Hence, as you subject every item on the agenda to scrutiny through the various break out groups, to identify key recommendations that will bring notable transformation to the aquatic food systems of the country’’.He noted that Ministry has played a key role in addressing aquatic food systems in Nigeria notably amongst are: Backward integration policy of Government to encourage fish importers to go into commercial aquaculture (pond and cage culture) of fish and shrimp farming, the establishment of fish farm clusters nationwide, the establishment of fish feed mills in each of the six (6) geo-political zones of the country. Other Programme includes Lake Enhancement programmes for stock assessment and stocking of water bodies nationwide to increase their productivity, capacity building of farmers, extension workers, women, and youth with the provision of starter packs for job and wealth creation, among others, Nanono added.

The Minister appreciated the commitment of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the entire Ministry team towards organizing the Programme and ensuring that it becomes a reality.In his welcome address, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Dr. Ernest Umakhihe, who was represented by the Head of Aquaculture and Deputy Director, Fisheries and Aquaculture Department, Mr Istifanus Pwaspo stated that “fish is one of the cheapest and predominant sources of animal protein in Nigeria. It accounts for about 50% of total animal protein consumed in Nigeria with a per capital consumption of 17.5 Kg /person/year. In this regard, the total demand for fish is 3.6 million tons annually while Nigeria is producing 1.1million tons from all sources (Aquaculture, artisanal and Industrial sectors) leaving a deficit of about 2.5 million tons to be supplemented by importation”.Dr. Umakhihe pointed out that “It is estimated that over 10 million Nigerians are actively engaged in primary and secondary fisheries operations.

The contribution of fisheries to the National Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is about 4.5%”.In his remark, the Country Director, Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), Dr. Michael Ojo stated that Nigeria has seen significant growth in production over the past 18 years ‘’ but we still have a large supply deficit limiting access for consumers and potentially contribute to the relatively high cost of aquatic foods.Dr. Ojo disclosed that ‘’ the factors that constrain the supply of safe and affordable fisheries products to meet consumer demand are multiple and reside at many different points in the supply chain’’