Norway’s cod dryers hit by Nigeria bank move

A Norwegian dried fish supplier is close to bankruptcy after currency controls imposed in Nigeria destroyed its biggest market.

Norway's cod dryers hit by Nigeria bank move
A sight to make an Igbo drool. Photo: Mapco Group
Nigerians have a huge appetite for ‘okporoko’, as unsalted, air-dried cod is known locally, using it as the key flavouring in the soups which accompany their grain staples. 
In a normal year the African country is Norway’s biggest single market for stockfish, with the trade, mainly in dried fish heads and other offcuts, worth some 486 million Norwegian kroner ($58m) a year.
But since Nigeria’s central bank in June banned importers from using the foreign-exchange market for some goods, including stockfish, business has ground to a halt. 
“Nigeria is our main market. Over half our turnover is stockfish and if the business stops for a few months, our company will be rapidly in the red,” Erling Falch from Saga Fisk in the Lofoten islands told NRK. 
He has already laid off almost half of the company's 50 employees to cut costs until business returns to normal. 
He said that the Nigerians were the main country worldwide with a taste for dried fish heads. Italy has traditionally been the biggest buyer of the more expensive cuts of stockfish. 
Falch said that his company normally exported as much as 100 tonnes of stockfish to Nigeria every week in the peak season. 
Instead, he now has some 500 tonnes of unsold stock in his warehouse, which he fears may soon become unsellable. 
Stockfish, which is laid out to dry across the Lofoten Islands and other parts of northern Norway while there is still snow on the ground in March, has been exported from Norway since Viking times.
Falch said that the Norwegian government needed to work harder to have stockfish removed from the list of goods facing currency controls. 
Stockfish is dried in Norway to ancient, time-honoured techniques: 
Much of it ends up on African plates, such as this dish of ugba and okporoko, one of the specialities of the Igbo people. 


Norway to digitise Nigerian literature

The National Library of Norway said Monday it would digitise literature from Nigeria following a seemingly unprecedented agreement which organisers hope will lead to an "African digital library".

Norway to digitise Nigerian literature
National Library of Norway director Aslak Sira Myhre. Photo: Gorm Kallestad/NTB scanpix

In the northern Norwegian town of Mo i Rana, at the rim of the Arctic Circle, the National Library of Norway plans to digitise part of its Nigerian counterpart's collection.

The library's public division is located in the capital Oslo.

“Our goal is for this project to serve as a model for other countries, and that we can help create a fully-fledged African digital library,” the Norwegian library's director Aslak Sira Myhre said in a statement.

The agreement, which is to be signed on June 10 in Abuja, will initially cover works written in the Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba languages, the library said.

The costs will be shared, with the library in Nigeria responsible for collecting the works and the Norwegian one for carrying out the digitisation, with the transport covered by the Norwegian embassy in Nigeria.

“The project has not been launched because the National Library wants to provide foreign development aid but because it enables us to enlarge our foreign language library, so this becomes a win-win project for us and Nigeria,” a spokeswoman for the Norwegian library, Nina Braein, told AFP.

The National Library of Norway made headlines in 2014 when it announced it was putting virtually all Norwegian literature published before 2001 online and available free of charge, thanks to a pioneering agreement with rights holders on the thorny issue of royalties.

The digitisation of Norwegian works is expected to be completed this year.

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