Kenya registers boom in fish exports as China firms its position as country’s top supplier

KENYA – Kenya’s fish export value in 2021 increased amid rise in export volumes as China firmed its position as the largest exporter to Kenya.

Data from the State Department of Fisheries seen by the Business Daily shows that Kenya shipped in 14.8 million kilogrammes of the delicacy from China last year, valued at Ksh2 billion (US$16.6m), up from Ksh1.5 billion (US$12.47m) in the previous period.

This has increased China’s market share from 70 per cent in 2020 to 83 per cent, as the Asian nation squeezed out South Korea, Thailand, Tanzania and Uganda from top source markets in the fight for the Kenyan consumer.

China, which is already Kenya’s biggest source of imports for household goods and electronics, is racing to bag a larger share of food exports into the continent including not only fish but also rice and manufactured edible products.

In total Kenya imported 20 million kilos of fish worth Ksh2.47 billion (US$20.5m) last year from 19 sampled countries, a 10 per cent jump from Ksh2.2 billion (US$18.25m) in 2020, to bridge the growing deficit due to dwindling stocks from major domestic sources such as Lake Victoria.

Other source markets were Norway (US$797,000), Tanzania (US$764,000), India (US$648,000) and Uganda (US$473,000).

On the other hand, fish exports grew significantly with the country recording Ksh3.4 billion (US$28.25m) from export of 11 million kilos of fish in the review period, up from Ksh2.7 billion (US$22.4m) a year earlier.

The Democratic Republic of Congo was the leading export destination having shipped in fish worth 174 million followed by Italy at Ksh663 million (US$5.51m) with China coming third at Ksh124 million (US$1.03m). Spain and Netherlands also rounded off as Kenya’s top destinations for Kenyan fish.

Kenya has an annual deficit of 365,000 tonnes of fish against a demand of 500,000 tonnes, which can only be filled through imports.

Meanwhile in neighbouring Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni has returned the Fisheries and Aquaculture Bill, 2022 to Parliament for reconsideration.

The bill that was passed by Parliament on 03 May 2022, seeks to consolidate and reform the law related to the management of fisheries and fisheries products and aquaculture.

However, although it was sent for assent, during plenary on Wednesday, 07 September 2022, Speaker Anita Among communicated that the President had returned the bill for reconsideration.

Among read the President’s letter dated 18, August 2022, where the President raised concerns that the bill domiciles the surveillance unit organisation command, control and training under the Uganda Police force (UPDF) and yet it should be under the Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces (UPDF) and the UPF.

“The rationale is that given the need for continuous surveillance and sophisticated ways employed by people involved in illegal fishing, the support for both UPDF and the Uganda Police force are required,” the letter read.

The President also said that the bill does not adequately define a licensing officer. And that defining a licensing officer as a Chief Fisheries Officer, or District Fisheries Officer, will cause confusion and can lead to malpractice.

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