Lake Harvest, the largest Tilapia farmer in Africa, has pleaded with the government of Zimbabwe to put in place an aquaculture policy which matches neighboring countries to enhance competitiveness.
James de La Farge, Lake Harvest Chief Executive Officer, made the clarion call while presenting at the ZimTrade Exporters Conference in Harare on Thursday where he said the sector and company in particular, needs assistance to survive, develop and regain exports markets which it has lost over the years.
The company which has been operational for nearly 20 years has seen its exports to European markets fall from 90% to 50% and believes the fishing industry in Zimbabwe is slowly dying due to lack of government support.
"55% of our cost of production is feed, mainly maize and soya and for us to compete we must be able to produce these products at the same prices as our competitors. The Grain Marketing Board now dominates the supply side of the market and sets the prices but we need government to accommodate stock feed producers for export markets.
"We request the Ministry of Finance to review the move for Value Added Tax (VAT) from zero rating to exemption for fish, ideally for wholesale, but if not possible, for export sales and for the retrospective charge for VAT on capital development over prior years, this will boost the sector,"said de La Farge
He added that the aquaculture sector needs to be aligned to agriculture and have independent commissions which monitor wage competitiveness.
De La Farge noted that high lake fees for local fish farmers pay need to be reviewed so that they tally with those paid by other countries.
"These elements need to be addressed urgently to keep his export sector alive and as a precursor to inclusion in a formal national aquaculture policy that is environmentally sustainable and economically empowering," he said while adding that the fishing sector has a potential to increase foreign currency earning for the country through exports to European Markets.