The Catfish and Allied Fish Farmers Association of Nigeria (CAFFAN) has appealed to the Federal Government to intervene in the current ban on importation of smoked fish from Nigeria into the U.S.
The National President of CAFTAN, Mr Rotimi Oloye, made the appeal in an interview with the newsmen in Abuja on Tuesday.
He said that the government’s intervention should involve the release and dispatch of the Food Safety and Inspection Services (FSIS) document by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to the U.S. food safety agency. Oloye said that the U.S. Government on March 1 banned the importation of Nigeria’s smoked fish into the U.S. because of failure of the Federal Government to return the certification document within the stipulated time.
“Right now, the government of America has banned the importation of our smoked fish into America because there is a documentation which the Federal Department of Fishery is supposed to send to them within a stipulated timeframe.
“Nigeria did not finish work on the document and send it back to America; so the Americans have to ban our fish from coming to their country despite the fact that a lot of money has gone into the venture.
“A lot of infrastructure has been put in place, people have been employed in this line of production and now, what is going to happen to them? They will go back to the labor market, looking for other things to do.
“We export our fish to Europe and America because we have a large population of Africans over there and there are specific shops designated for African foods but before you take the fish to those places, there is a formal procedure.
“The fish must be certified safe so it does not become a health challenge to their country by the time you bring it in.
“The U.S. Government will require any country exporting food items into their country to present the document if not; they will remove the country from their list of importers.
“We are only begging the Federal Government to intervene. We need the government to tell its fisheries department to do the necessary things to rectify the error, so that things can begin to flow again,’’ he said.
According to him, the document is a routine one that carries information, data and other specifics that will help a country to take a decision whether to continue or stop its business with other countries.
Oloye, who expressed regret that no legal fish exportation business could be carried out with the U.S. at the present, said that the development might affect Nigeria’s balance of payment at the international trade.
Reacting to the development, a reliable source at the Department of Fisheries, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, acknowledged the receipt of the document from the U.S. food agency.
A top official in the ministry said that the department was currently working on the document, in efforts to rescind the ban on fish exports to the U.S.
The source said that the document was sent to Nigeria from the U.S. “to ascertain the quality of what they are consuming.
“The survey document is like a form and it requires us to do a laboratory test or procedure to ascertain the quality of the fish being exported but we don’t have money to do it. The stakeholders, that is the exporters, have come together to raise money for the laboratory analysis; so we are currently working on it. The major constraint is funds for the laboratory testing because the Americans need updates for continuous fish exports,’’ the source said.
Reports said that the FSIS is a federal agency within the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
It is the public health agency charged with the responsibility of ensuring that all meat, poultry and egg products in the U.S. are certified safe and wholesome, while they are correctly labelled and packaged.