By Mercy Omoike and Adebola Adegoke
The Stock-fish Dealers Association on Thursday urged the Federal Government to grant importers of Stock-fish, access to the Foreign Exchange (FOREX).
The group made the call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on the sidelines of a two-day Seafood Seminar in Lagos.
Chairman of the association, Mr Gregory Ilobinso, said access to FOREX ensures ease in conducting their businesses.
“Stock-fish is one of 43 products that cannot access foreign exchange.
“If importers want to bring in Stock-fish, then we have to have an approved ‘Form M’ from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) with evidence of U.S. dollars to finance the import.
“It takes from six months to one year to get a Form M approved, and because of this, we cannot stock up the product.
“That is why we are appealing to the Federal Government to allow us access to FOREX to enable us import Stock-fish.
“Getting FOREX for our businesses has been a big challenge.
“We understand Federal Government’s stance that the oil market is volatile, FOREX is not in steady supply but the cost of accessing dollars for Stock-fish is not so much compared to other commodities,’’ Ilobinso said.
He made a case for the relevance of Stock-fish in the Nigerian diet and the need for the government to ensure ease of accessing FOREX for the trade.
“There is no substitute, alternative or competition for Stock-fish in Nigerian cuisines.
“Stock-fish has its own place and adds its own flavour to Nigerian meals.
“Eating and using Stock-fish for meals has become a tradition and a delicacy for us.
“Stock-fish is also used as a souvenir and gifts that our people appreciate.
“It has a long shelf life that cannot be compared to any protein source; it can be kept in the kitchens for an average of two years.
“During the Nigerian civil war due to the outbreak of kwashiorkor, the World Council of Churches imported Stock-fish to help solve the protein-deficiency,’’ the chairman said.
According to him, when we cannot import Stock-fish, a lot of people in its value-chain will lose their sources of livelihoods.
“The wholesalers, retailers, truck drivers, mechanics and loaders will lose their jobs if we cannot import Stock-fish.
“If we are allowed to access FOREX, it will be an added benefit to the government in terms of increased revenue.
“But if these goods find alternative ways of getting into the country, the government will likely lose revenue from its importation,’’ he said. (NAN)