The Norwegian Ambassador to Nigeria, Knut Lein, has called on the Federal Government, to reconsider its forex denial on stockfish imports as the seafood is highly nutritional and has become a part of the local delicacies.

Lein made the call at the seminar convened by the Norwegian Seafood Council to explore ways of increasing stockfish trade between both countries through mutually beneficial trade policies and guidelines.

Both countries bilateral relations have grown considerably with trade on stockfish, which is a staple food in Nigeria.

But the continued foreign exchange embargo placed by the Central Bank of Nigeria on some items, including stockfish, is a cause of concern to them.

The Central Bank of Nigeria listed pelagic fish and stockfish among 44 items not valid for Foreign Exchange Window.

Speaking at the seminar in Lagos, Norwegian Ambassador to Nigeria, Knut Lein, said that strengthening and promoting trade ties with Nigeria is important to Norway.

“We are here basically to discuss ways to increase the trade of stockfish between our two countries. To make stockfish cheaper and more accessible to the Nigerian people.

“We need the Nigerian government to help us. We think stockfish should get access to forex. We need lower import taxes and less bureaucracy.

“Norway understands that Nigeria needs to grow its own fish industry, to which Norway stands ready to assist Nigeria realise,” Lein pointed out.

On his own part, Norwegian Minister for Fisheries and Ocean Policy, Rt Hon. Bjornar Skjaeran, argued that the major challenge affecting Norway, Nigeria trade relationship remain the currency restrictions.

He said the forex restriction makes it much more difficult and much more expensive for Nigerian importers and stockfish customers to buy fish from Norway.

“In recent times, the situation has gone from bad to worse. And the industry is really concerned that stockfish prices may reach a level that will seriously restrict trade”, he said.

Giving reasons why stockfish should be removed from the list of items with foreign exchange restrictions, he said “Norwegian stockfish is a unique seafood product that can only be produced in the special climate of Northern Norway.

“The stockfish is not in direct competition with the locally produced fish in Nigeria. Second, the volume imported each year is low compared to other important fish products. So, the inputs do not negatively affect the local production of fish in Nigeria. Third, the region stockfish is an extremely healthy sole source of protein. It contains as much less 80% protein. It is low in fat, and it contains essential vitamins.

“The currency restrictions have led to increased prices for stockfish. It is unfortunate if the price increase prevents people from buying this nutritious product,” he pointed out.

He said that the Norwegian government will continue to work to remove Norwegian stockfish from the list of items with foreign exchange restrictions.

Also speaking, Director Africa, Norwegian Seafood Council, Mr Trond Kostveit, said that the essence of the seminar is to bring the importers and exporters together to discuss ways to increase the sales of stockfish and promote trade relations between the two countries.

On the forex restriction on stockfish importance, Kostveit said there are very many good reasons why stockfish should be removed from the embargo list. “Stockfish and stockfish heads are currently more or less the most affordable fish proteins for a majority of Nigerians in the low-income bracket.

“Many livelihoods depend on the stockfish trade as both men and women are involved in the sales in all the Nigerian markets. Despite the popularity of stockfish in Nigeria, it does not pose a threat to the encouragement of increased local production of fish in Nigeria as the imported volume is relatively low it does not involve the repatriation of a lot of foreign currency as compared to other items on the list,’’ he said.

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