The National Agency for Foods and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has decried the poor storage culture of seafood and others in the country, stressing the need for more hygienic storage system.
Its Assistant Director, Dr Tunde Segbeku, who spoke at a seminar organised by the Norwegian Seafood Council (NSC) in Lagos, expressed the support of the agency for the products imported by the NSC.
He, however, lamented the challenges of nonchalant attitude of importers when clearing their goods at the port as well as the ignorant use of insecticide to prevent it from being destroyed.
Responding to the complaints of an importer, who identified himself as Tunde, the NAFDAC official, said: “As long as an importer has all permits legally got and complete, the importation of seafood wouldn’t be a problem, reason being that the government and the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) is fully aware and has an open system operation with the NSC that facilitates smooth importation and clearance. We would also make sure we stop the market from the wrong use of insecticides on food products.
“Also, it is important that exporters are sincere with every transaction they make. Giving clear reports about what they are bringing into the country. There is a clear difference between importing animal feeds and other items, so, there is need to be precise about the product being imported. Customers are to classify the rightful product, distinguish between animal and fisheries product. We hope to strengthen our relationship with stakeholders and partners and also improve the capacity of local fish handler and processor,” Segbeku said.
The Nigerian Customs Service (NSC) also said despite the closure of borders, Norwegians are free to import seafood especially stockfish, assuring both importers and exporters of free exchange of goods and services without any challenge.
Its representative, Musa Nagogo ,explained that the customs is fully in support of the importation of stockfish by the Norwegian Seafood Council (NSC) and have no problems with the organisation.
The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, represented by the Director of Fisheries and Aquaculture, Dr Ime Umoh, said the ministry appreciates the efforts of the Norwegian Council in creating awareness and assisting to proffer solution and alternative to the eradication of pests on dried fish and storage facilities. “I also commend them for organising this seminar to showcase correct way of handling seafood. I want to assure you that the Federal Government will leave no stone unturned until this evil practice is completely eliminated in our society,” he said.
A Norwegian researcher at the Nigerian Institute of Applied Food Science, Dr Bjorn Tore Rotabakk, stressed the challenges and the importance of food safety. He said: “Exposure of stockfish to sun is not good as it affects the taste and the color. When you see a stockfish that has dark spots on it, you should know that the fish has been infected. The best way to preserve stockfish or most products is by refrigerating or storing at a well-built store where insects and pest cannot destroy these foods.
“You can be sure of a safe and healthy stockfish that can last for a year as long as it is stored well. The stockfish is to be kept safe biologically, chemically and physically,” he said.
The NSC Director, Dr. Trond Kostvelt, said business with Nigeria has been great this year compared to last year and envisage a much better partnership next year.
“So far in 2019, 21,500 tons of seafood from Norway has been exported to Nigeria valued at $35million. This is an increase of 48 per cent in volume and 25 per cent in value compared to last year. In August this year, tariff rate on dried fish heads was reduced from 20 per cent to 10 per cent. This is encouraging for us,” he said.