JINJA— Fish exporters have appealed to the government of Uganda to sign a pending trade protocol with Chinese administration to enable them fully access Beijing market with less limitations.
The Chinese government last month said it had waived all tariffs by 98 percent of imports from 10 least developed countries including Uganda.
Mr. William Tibyasa Mwesigye, the program officer at Uganda Fish Processors and Exporters Association (UFPEA) says that if the pending trade protocol which was drafted more than two years ago is signed by both countries, Ugandan traders will be able to export fish products without facing challenges that other competing countries are going through.
“Those benefits which have been offered to us [by China] will not be maximumly exploited if we do not sign that trade protocol,” Mr. Mwesigye said during a GIZ founded fish festival hosted in Jinja on weekend.
“I implore our government to fast track the signing of that protocol, such that we can harness the Chinese market and have its people enjoy the benefits of the quality products from Uganda,” Mwesigye added.
In 2020, Uganda exported $64.9M in Fish products making it the 38th largest exporter of Fish Fillets in the world.
In the same year, Fish Fillets was the 8th most exported product in Uganda.
The main destinations of Fish exports from Uganda are the European Union, Middle East, some parts of Asia, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.
This means Uganda exports up to 70 percent of her fish products to European Union.
Onboarding the Chinese market, will see Uganda earn more than USD1 billion annually, according to Mr. Mwesigye.
The trade volume between the two countries in 2021 amounted to 1.07 billion U.S. dollars, registering a 28.5 percent increase, against the shock waves of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mr. Mwesigye said that UFPEA, the umbrella organization that brings together all industrial fish processors in Uganda is among the entities that are benefiting from GIZ sustainable fisheries projects.
He says the association has received financial and capacity building support and that this has equipped them with skills to meet both acceptable local and international fish protocols.
“Today, there is no single fisherman who supplies our factories that engages in fishing illegalities. So the factories are not buying any fish that is below the size of 50 centimetres and we are trying so hard to ensure that we promote sustainability through responsible fisheries,” Mwesigye said.
He says they receive technical and financial support to ensure that they undertake self monitoring with their factories.
“We provide information materials to our fishermen and training to ensure that we sustain the fisheries resources and this will ensure that the fishermen and everybody that’s involved in the supply chain gains from the benefits.”
Funded by GIZ, the weekend festival that was hosted at Kingfisher Resort Hotel at the shores of Lake Victoria, attracted researchers and experts from government organizations like National Fisheries Research Institute and private sector players who sensitized participants on acceptable fishing methods and how best to improve on their aquaculture practices.
Ashraf Kamya, a research scientist with the National Fisheries Resources Research Institute (NaFIRRI) said fish is a healthy protein meat contributor to all people irrespective of their age groups.
He appealed to lake users to strive to protect fish breeding areas within the large water bodies, which can lead to production of high quantities of fish for both local consumption and export.
Mr. Kamya said most fish species in Ugandan fresh water bodies face extinction by mostly the man driven activities on the lakes.
“How does fish survive? Fish has something that it feeds on. It feeds on other components. How do these components come into the water so that fish can feed on them? There are a lot of developments ranging from hydro generation, domestic extraction of water, transport and then pollution that are causing the disappearance of these organisms in the ecosystem that fish depend on” Mr. Kamya said.
He said there’s a need to develop a more ecosystem based approach on fish and biodiversity conservation within the lakes.
Stephen Mlote, deputy Secretary General for Planning and Infrastructure of the East African Community said the fisheries and aquaculture subsector is still constrained with challenges ranging from illegal fishing, poor quality fish feed and fingerlings, to limited investments among others.
“Let us all of us fight these vices,” he said.
Mlote pledged on behalf of EAC to join the respective governments to support the Lake Victoria Fisheries Organization which is the regional specialized institution on matters related to fisheries and aquaculture.
This, he said, would spur sustainable fisheries.
He commended GIZ for supporting such a creative platform where innovations and ideas on sustainable management are shared, and for recognizing the role of small-scale fishers and fish farmers.
The other groups that participated include LVFO, Directorate of Fisheries Resources, NAFIRRI, Federation of Fisheries Organizations Uganda, Katosi Women Development Trust, and Uganda Fisheries and Fish Conservation Association.
The Association of Fishers and Lake Users of Uganda (AFALU), Source of the Nile Fish Farm also participated.
Revelers were also treated to a fish feast, where they purchased different fish products and enjoyed them with their families and friends.
Luigina Blaick, the head of rural economic development at GIZ Uganda said it is relevant to have small scale sector players capacitated on the right fishing methods to achieve sustainability of their businesses and fisheries.
She added that the project seeks to empower small and medium-sized businesses on sustainable fish production and processing.
Ms. Blaich says this approach is able to create jobs and income-generating opportunities in the value chain among other areas.
Mr. Adolf Gerstl, the project team leader told journalists at the sidelines of Festival that GIZ has supported the fish fiesta for the previous four editions and assured Ugandans that there would be a fifth one.
He said the project seeks address gaps in regional food security.
Gerstl also urged fish users to ditch primitive fishing practices, a development he thinks
will promote fish sustainability.
Gerstl adds that GIZ has teamed up with different state and private actors in improving the quality of fish products sold on both local and international markets.