UGANDA – According to the Ugandan Ministry of Finance report, fish imports into the country amounted to US$13m (Shs50b) for the year ended December 2019 despite being one of the biggest fish producers in East Africa.

The report indicates that salted, dried, smoked and fish meal fit for human consumption dominated the list costing the country US$12m (Sh48b).

Other fish imports in the period, according to a report by Daily Monitor, included fish fillets, fish meat all in fresh, chilled and frozen form worth US$202,752 (Shs770m).

Live fish, frozen and chilled fish leeks during the period under review amounted to nearly US$200,000 (Shs745m).

The country also imported crustaceans, mollusks and aquatic invertebrates (some of which were live, fresh and chilled) worth US$125,500 (Shs476m).

Mr Sujal Goswami, the Uganda Fish Processors and Exporters Association chairman, told Daily Monitor it was difficult to understand why Uganda was importing fish and related products yet, “it is not a fish eating country because most of what is produced is exported in chilled, frozen and smoked form.”

In the same period, according to Bank of Uganda, the country exported fish worth US$176m (Shs670.7b) mainly in frozen, chilled or smoked form.

But this was a decline from the US$215m (Shs817b) that the country fetched from exports in the same period in 2018.

The fisheries sector continues to be an important social and economic driver, leaping other sectors to become Uganda’s second largest foreign exchange earner with a 2.6 per cent GDP and 12 per cent to agricultural GDP.

The industry is recovering from years of bad fishing that had led to serious depletion in terms of production about 10 years ago.

According to Uganda Fish Processors and Exporters Association, at least four fish processing factories including Marine and Agro, Ngege, Iftra and Gomba, have resumed production after years of being redundant.

The government has been driving a number of interventions key among them registering 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.

In addition to that they have deployed authorities around lakes and fishing grounds to enforce acceptable fishing standards.

Uganda 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.