The final speaker was Ben Belton (WorldFish / Michigan State University). Belton presented findings on the impact of COVID-19 on Nigeria’s critical fish sector. The study utilized high-frequency phone surveys that sought to track data related to fish production, prices, producers’ access to various inputs, and assistance provided to the sector.
The surveys identified several short-term effects of Nigeria’s COVID-19 lockdown measures (defined as lasting 3-4 months), namely difficulty buying or selling fish and related products and difficulty accessing transportation for fish products. The impacts of the lockdown on fish value chain actors’ access to inputs lasted slightly longer, while demand for fish and fish products has seen the longest lasting consequences and has not yet fully recovered from Nigeria’s lockdown measures. Thus, there has been a lagged effect following the initial shock.
Employment in the fish sector dipped significantly following the outbreak of COVID-19 and the start of Nigeria’s lockdown. Employees were often unable to get to work due to travel limitations and disruptions to public transportation; at the same time, reduced sales led many firms in the fish sector to suspend their operations and hire fewer laborers.
Belton highlighted that the challenges faced by Nigeria’s fish sector have shifted throughout the study period. During the early spring, lockdown measures and movement restrictions formed the most substantial challenges to the sector’s functioning. By September, however, the most critical challenge facing fish value chain actors were input shortages and subsequent skyrocketing input prices. This again highlights the lagged effect of the outbreak of COVID-19.
Importantly, the fish value chain received very little assistance during the pandemic: less than 2 percent of respondents in the April survey reported receiving any help. Additionally, the bulk of the assistance that fisheries did receive was through informal channels (family and friends) rather than through government programs or NGOs.
“We see clearly that government safety nets were not widely implemented,” Belton emphasized. “Our recommendations then are addressing these points in future crisis situations.”