24 April 2018

East Africa: Uganda Loses EA Fish Market to China

Photo: The Observer
(File photo)

Uganda has over the years slowly lost its regional fish market to Chinese exports, according to data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics.

Apart from Uganda, Chinese fish exports continue to flood the region with the biggest export being tilapia.

According to Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, the country spent $22m (Shs81b) on fish imports in 2017. This was a growth from $10m in 2016.

Kenya requires one million tonnes of fish annually but only produces 200,000 tonnes domestically, which leaves a deficit of 800,000 tonnes. Much of the deficit was imported from Uganda, Tanzania and India but China has since taken over.

China exported more than 357,000 tonnes of tilapia worth $11m (Shs40b) into Kenya.

According to Philip Borel, the Uganda Fish Processors and Exporters Association vice chairperson, cheap tilapia from China continues to be a problem to the region and has unfairly heightened competition in one of Uganda's traditional markets such as Rwanda and DR Congo."

According to data from the Central Bank, Uganda's formal fish exports were valued at $131m (Shs480b) while informal exports stood at $36.9m (Shs135b) in 2017. Reports indicate that Tanzania, which controls more than half of Lake Victoria, also imported more fish from China growing by about 23 per cent to $8m (Shs29b).

This is more than double the $3.6m (Shs13bn) fish the country imported in 2014.

Tanzania imported frozen pacific mackerel, Indian mackerel, chub, frozen sardine and tilapia.


Apart from China, Kenya is also importing more fish from Tanzania than Uganda. This has been occasioned by a near depletion of Uganda's fish stocks as the country continues to grapple with bad fishing methods.

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