Uganda worries as fish exports decline by 46% while industry is on road to recovery

UGANDA – Uganda fish exports in the first seven months to July 2020 have dropped by more than Ush.124 billion (US$33.5m) compared to the same period in 2019, as COVID-19 restricted its key export markets, especially Europe.

The total exported amount during the period under review dropped from 17,541 tonnes worth US$106.53m (Shs392b) in 2019 to 11,402 tonnes of fish worth US$72.97m (Shs268b) representing a 46% decline.

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According to reports by Daily Monitor, the fall might be temporary but presents challenges to an industry that has been recovering from over a decade of massive decline.

Mr Sujal Goswami, the Uganda Fish Processors and Exporters Association chairman, said, “We are still lucky that we earned the US$72m. Otherwise it would be worse. The market is very bad.”

Over the last 15 years, the fisheries sector has played an important social and economic role in Uganda as the second largest foreign exchange earner, contributing 2.6 per cent of gross domestic product and 12 per cent to agricultural gross domestic product.

However, this had declined because of immature and illegal fishing which depleted fish out of a number of lakes.

In 2018/19 the fishing industry contributed US$703.7 million to the country’s economy, representing close to 1.5% of GDP.

“We are still lucky that we earned the US$72m. Otherwise it would be worse. The market is very bad.”

Mr Sujal Goswami – Chairman Uganda Fish Processors and Exporters Association

In trying to save the resource and the industry, government intervened through deploying the fisheries protection force that have been patrolling water resources against illegal fishermen.

They also commenced the registration of fishing boats that have appropriate gear, implementing closed fishing in breeding areas to allow fingerlings to grow, and establishing aquaculture and cage fishing that mainly seek to allow the industry recover.

The country is also coming up with the Fisheries and Aquaculture Bill that will embed new fisheries enforcements into law. This will help direct all illegal earnings estimated at US$430 million annually to the national Treasury.

According to a report by SeafoodSource, Uganda reported a 43% surge in production to 561,000 metric tons (MT) between 2017 and 2019.

The recovery has seen a number of factories, which had closed in the period between August 2018 and 2019 return to work. The industry, which had reduced to five companies, has seen the number go up to 12 factories.

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