Demand for imported versus domestic fish in Nigeria

Fish is among the most important animal-sourced foods in Africa and is crucial in combating malnutrition. Fish demand in Africa has far outpaced supply as the import share rose from 16% in 1970 to 39% by 2017. Little is known about who is consuming the imports: rural versus urban, rich versus poor. This is the first fish consumption analysis in Africa distinguishing imported and domestic fish, and within domestic fish, fresh versus traditional-processed. We analyse three rounds of nationally representative data from Nigeria, disaggregating the richer South from the poorer North, and urban and rural. Frozen (imported) fish accounted for 34% of urban fish consumption in the North (23% for rural), compared with 67% in urban areas in the South (54% for rural). The large difference in frozen fish consumption between regions is due mainly to differences in income and refrigerator ownership. For other fish forms (fresh, dried, smoked), regional differences are far less pronounced. Income and price elasticities confirm that imported fish have become deeply incorporated into fish consumption habits. From a policy perspective, this intensifies concerns about import bills as fish demand grows. However, our elasticity results show that Nigerian consumers are keen to consume fresh fish as incomes increase, and that demand for smoked and dried fish also remains strong at high levels of income. Promoting aquaculture is a promising policy path to reduce import dependence. Domestic capture fisheries remain a major source of fish, making it important to maintain productivity at sustainable levels through better management.