Fish is a great source of protein but, contrary to popular belief, Nigeria does not have a competitive advantage. The country's long marine shoreline in its southern borders is not an oasis of fish but a festival of crustacean aqua life. Unfortunately, states like Lagos, Delta, Rivers, and Akwa Ibom have not taken optimum advantage of the economic possibilities of the country's coastal crustacean sanctuary. While many states lull themselves into thinking of large fish markets, the demographic composition of Nigeria's aquatic life would pull out a production card in favour of shrimps, crabs, prawns, and lobsters.
Crustaceans, fish and other marine organisms account for approximately 20% of global protein intake. Aquatic farming could raise the volume of domestic protein consumption significantly and take care of the cholesterol troubles associated with red meat. Analysts note that aquaculture is one of the fastest-growing global food-producing industries. In recent times, shrimp consumption has risen strongly, especially in richer developed countries. The rising demand for aquatic food has led to a growth in aquafarming, particularly shrimps and lobsters. Coastal demographic analysis suggests that Nigeria has an abundant supply of shrimps, and this could turn out to be a prominent agricultural foreign exchange earner in years ahead and help coatal economies in improving revenues.
Unfortunately, many of these areas have suffered environmental degradation or pollution caused by natural or biological disasters and oil spillage, which has slowed down activities like shrimp farming in the country. India is the largest exporter of shrimp globally, with Nigeria being the second largest exporter in Africa with an estimated value of US$74.1m as of 2019 according to OEC, a 5.91% drop from US$78.8m of the previous year.
Chart 1: Nigerian fishing Export Value for 2019(US$)
Source: OEC, Proshare research
While Crustacean export is the most significant value-producing item in the seafood export industry, Nigeria still lags in production and value-addition globally. Nigeria had once tried to encourage the production of shrimps under controlled conditions but failed. Measures adopted to mitigate factors affecting shrimp farming in Nigeria resulted in little or no success.
Some of the factors affecting the aquatic food industry in Nigeria, particularly the shrimp exports, are:
Nigeria exports most of its shrimps to France (40.2%,), the Netherlands (26.3%,), and Belgium (16%) contributing 0.28% of the crustacean export globally and 12.7% of exports in Africa as of 2019. With The United States of America and China being the largest importers of shrimps, it begs why Nigeria has not taken advantage of these markets, which has a combined demand of 48.5% of the global crustacean demand. Importers of Nigeria's shrimps have a combined total global demand of 8.48%.
Chart 2: Global Shrimp fishing Import Value for 2019($)
Source: OEC, Proshare Research
Interestingly, one of Nigeria's coastal states, Lagos State, has agreed to increase shrimp production to meet local demand of 400,000 MT. Currently, the state produces about 174,000 MT, leaving a deficit of about 226,000 MT of shrimps annually.
Illustration 1: Issues Affecting the Fishing Industry
Engineering a Way Forward
With Asia being the largest importer of shrimps globally, Nigeria, is still struggling to supply enough for domestic consumption. Economists observe that to take advantage of global and local supply gaps, the country needs to take some critical steps. The measures include, but are not limited to:
Against the vast untapped seafood resources available, the country needs to be deliberate about its aquaculture industry. Analysts agree that Nigeria must navigate its way through the global seafood value chain to become one of the world's largest producers of high-quality crustacean meal products.