The Federal Government has ordered the immediate shutdown of all cold rooms found to be stockpiling expired or unwholesome fish in the country.
According to the government, it has also commenced a physical count of all cold rooms in Nigeria as well as conduct laboratory tests on products found in them to ascertain whether or not they were safe for human consumption.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, gave the directive in Lagos, shortly after inspecting a number of cold storage facilities being operated by major fish importers in the state.
A statement from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, made available to our correspondent on Thursday, stated that during the inspection, many of the importers/operators of the cold rooms abandoned their facilities.
It said the operators left behind their supervisors and menial workers, who were in no position to give material information on the products held in the facilities.
It stated that preliminary assessments by the ministry indicated that there were about 42 companies with cold storage facilities stocking fish and fish product in the Lagos area.
FMARD in the statement, said, “These facilities have varying numbers of cold storage chains, with storage capacities ranging from 500 to 3000 20kg cartons of fish.
“The preliminary assessment also revealed that a single cold room belonging to one company with seven subsidiaries contained 2290 cartons of unwholesome fish, while another had 256 cartons of expired fish and 581 cartons of unwholesome fish.”
According to the ministry, a comprehensive report on the full scale field assessment of fish storage facilities in the Lagos area was being awaited, as well as the laboratory reviews to determine the wholesomeness of the fish and products in stock.
At a stakeholders’ conference in February, fish and fishery product retailers had complained of sharp business practices by some importers.
They decried the dumping of unwholesome and expired fish products on the Nigerian market by big importers who delved into retailing illegally.
Adesina, during the conference in Abuja, had issued new regulations to clean up the abuse in which Nigeria was being used as a dumping ground for unwholesome frozen fish and declared that all illegally imported fish would be confiscated and destroyed.
He said, “The total demand for fish in the country is 2.7 million metric tons, and local production at about 800,000 metric tons, the deficit of 1.9 million metric tons was being met by imports.
“Our goal is to be self-sufficient in fish production. We will achieve this by promoting greater investments in aquaculture, improving artisanal, inland and marine fisheries. Our four-year target is to increase the production of fish fingerlings by 1.25 billion per year, the production of fish feed by 400,000 metric tons per year, and increase table size fish production by an additional 250,000 metric tons per year.”