Fish dealers have petitioned Parliament's agriculture committee over the new levy on fish exports. In a bid to increase revenue to close the budget funding gap, the Government has introduced new taxes on exportation of fish caught in Uganda's waters.
According to the Finance Bill 2013, export of large fish species, whether fresh, smoked or salted, will attract a levy of 5 US cents (sh130) per kg Free on Board (FOB).
FOB means the price quoted by the seller including all charges up to placing the goods aboard a ship at the port of departure.
Exporters of small pelagic fish locally known as mukene, nkejje, ragoge and mmeziri will be required to pay 2 US cents (sh51) per kg while exporters of fish bladder (maws) will pay 20 US cents (sh520) per kg.
The Bill, already before the finance committee, says export of industrial by-products from fish such as fish frames, fat, skin, off-cuts and fish oil will attract 2 US cents (sh51) per kg.
According to the Bill, the levy shall be collected by the Uganda Revenue Authority and remitted to the Consolidated Account.
However, the dealers, under Uganda Fish Processors and Exporters Association (UFPEA) and Association of Fisheries and Lake Users of Uganda, want the Government to expedite the establishment of a modern and result-oriented policy, legal and regulatory framework to ensure better supervision and management of the sector before enforcing the levy.
"The private sector strongly believes that enforcing the levy proposed without updating the provisions of the existing policy and laws and putting in place a robust institutional arrangement will not effectively address the fisheries resources sustainability issues and the development of a vibrant aquaculture sub-sector," said Sujal Goswami, the UFPEA chairman.
He elaborated that if the levy is introduced in the current situation without policy and legal reforms, it would instead lead to further decline of the fisheries contribution to domestic and foreign earnings as well as the nutritional status of Uganda.
The vice-chairman, Philip Borel presented statistics indicating that decline in foreign earnings from the sectors arising from the Government's failure to eliminate illegal activities.
Whereas Uganda earned $117m from fish exports in 2007, the revenue declined to $88m in 2012.
"The fisheries sector is the second leading contributor of foreign earnings after coffee. If the Government regulates and invests in the sector, the country can get more earnings from it. There are so many unlicensed dealers working for 'big' people," Borel said.
The dealers also opposed the Government's proposal to stop fishing in Lake Victoria waters for six months to give it time to reverse the indiscriminate depletion of the fish resource brought about by inappropriate fishing practices.
Most of the committee MPs, led by Mathias Kasamba, also opposed the suspension, arguing it would render the over 1.3 million Ugandans who live off the lake.