Fish maws once regarded as waste is increasingly becoming a delicacy in Asia, something which has seen its export volumes from Uganda increase by leaps and bounds.
According to information from the Uganda Fish Processors and Exporters Association (UFPEA), fish maws - a commercial term for dried swim bladders of large fish such as Nile Perch, is highly demanded in China.
In an interview with Prosper Magazine, UFPEA programmes officer, Mr William Tebyasa, said: “Fish maw exports from Uganda have increased and are mainly destined for Hong Kong - China.”
In China, fish maws are served in soups or stews and also used as a source of collagen. They can be made into strong, water-resistant glue, or used to make isinglass used in clearing up beer and wine during manufacturing.
Because of the growing demand for the maws in China, the price has gone up, something which is destined to boost the country’s fish export earnings as an industry in general.
The 2015 records from the department of fisheries in the ministry of Agriculture show the country exported more than 500 tonnes of fish maws. This earned the country $35.5 million (Shs127 billion).
This means on average the price of each kilogramme of maw has doubled to $110 (Shs396, 000) up from $35 (Shs126,000) it cost in 2013, yet in 2011 the price was only $20 (72,000).
Mr John Lwere, the exports promotion officer at Uganda Export Promotion Board, said: “True the price of fish maw is on the rise because of the increased demand in China.”
He, however, said that because of increased competition stocks are falling leading to price fall too.
On international markets, a kilogramme of maw ranges between $450 (Shs1.6 million) and $1,000 (Shs3.6 million) depending on the strength of the market and quality of the product.
Exports statistics indicate that Uganda reached unprecedented levels in 2005 when the sector was doing very well. All the factories were working and exporting about 36,000 tonnes of fish worth $143 million (Shs486 billion).
By 2014, the volumes had declined to 14,000 metric tonnes and so was the value which was worth $88 million (Shs299 billion).
There are many companies in Uganda doing business in fish maws, among which include: Hongo Fa Trading Diana GS International, Xuri International, D & B Seafood, and Vikedi Enterprises Ltd.