in KENYA – In a bid to protect its local fishing industry, Kenya has slashed imports of Chinese tilapia by a 54.4% in 2023, marking a significant shift in its trade dynamics.

According to data released by Chinese authorities, Kenya imported 1,927.81 tonnes of frozen tilapia, frozen tilapia fillets, and preserved whole or chopped-up pieces from China last year, a sharp decline from the 4,228.24 tonnes recorded in the previous year.

This reduction aligned with the Kenyan government’s efforts to shield its fishermen and farmers from the adverse effects of an influx of cheap imports from China.

In response to mounting pressure from the local fishing community, the government implemented a 10% excise duty on imported fish last year.

National Treasury Cabinet Secretary, Prof Njuguna Ndung’u, emphasized the need to protect the local aquaculture sector, a vital source of livelihood for thousands of Kenyans.

”Tilapia, a staple in the Kenyan diet, is primarily sourced from Lake Victoria and other freshwater bodies like Lake Naivasha. The fish is also cultivated in fish ponds by local farmers,” he said.

“The decline in Chinese tilapia imports is a testament to the success of the government’s strategy to narrow the price gap between imported and locally sourced fish.”

Apart from tilapia, Kenya imports various fish types from China, including mackerel, anchovies, catfish, and Nile Perch.

Interestingly, mackerel surpassed tilapia as the most imported fish type from China in 2023, with 3,316.44 tonnes imported, marking a 72% increase compared to tilapia. However, even with this shift, overall mackerel imports decreased slightly from the previous year.

Kenya’s reliance on fish imports has grown as stocks from Lake Victoria, the country’s main source of fish, have dwindled in recent years.

Meanwhile, the demand for fish in Kenya, particularly tilapia, continues to surge, creating an estimated annual deficit of 365,000 tonnes against a demand of 500,000 tonnes.

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