The Observer (Kampala)

Uganda: Nile Perch Prices Drop

Low demand for fish in Europe has partly led to the drop in the price of Nile perch, the delicacy that many Ugandan households couldn't afford.

The price for a kilogramme of Nile perch in many landing sites has since fallen from the dizzy heights of close to Shs 10,000 during the first quarter of this year to a friendlier Shs 3,000 to Shs 4,000.

Sulaiman Lukyamuzi of the beach management unit (BMU) at Kasenyi landing site notes that the European market determines a lot on the prices of the Nile perch from Uganda. "Europe contributes a big percentage of fish exports in Uganda; if the demand goes down, the prices automatically go down as well," he says. Uganda exports about 25,000 tons of fish every year.

At Kasenyi, for instance, a kilogramme of Nile perch currently goes between Shs 3,300 and Shs 4,000 depending on the size of the fish. Price drops have been experienced in areas like Kasese, Bukakkata, Kasenyi and Port Bell.

In the Kampala markets, a kilo of Nile perch is still hovering around Shs 10,000. Bank of Uganda's monetary statement for October notes that during the month, prices of some food items such as fish registered substantial decreases on account of increased supplies supported by seasonal factors.

While some households have celebrated minor price drops in the kilo of Nile perch, the fishermen who brave the wee hours of the morning in search of a big catch are in despair.

"We are the ones that endure all the wind on the lake, sometimes our nets get stolen and we receive just peanuts," lamented Lawrence Lubulwa, a fisherman at Bubeke, along Lake Victoria.

There is more to the story though than Europe's mood swings; Uganda's failure to curb illegal fishing is also seen as part of the problem. To survive amidst Europe's low demand, many fishermen now concentrate on the local and regional markets.

And unlike Europe, the local markets are the kind that do not pay attention to the size of the fish. Some fishermen have now bought smaller nets to catch fish. Also, some of Uganda's fish laws are not in tandem with regional standards.

For example, while East African Community fisheries' policy recommends 20 inches as the minimum standard size, Uganda's laws allow 18 inches.

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