What you need to know:
Their view. Experts have called for a public-private partnership to implement the regulations in order to save resources.
Delay by government to regulate the fish industry is not only threatening the country’s export revenues but also the livelihood of hundreds of people.
Already the increasing catching of immature fish has seen six factories close shop and the remaining 12 factories are operating under capacity, something players say is killing one of the country’s leading non-traditional export earners.
In an interview with Prosper magazine, the chairman Uganda Fish Processors and Exporters Association (Ufpea), Mr Phillip Borel, said: “We are losing a lot of fish revenue and close to 1. 5 million people whose lives entirely depend on fish are at risk”.
He said in the previous two budgets, government through Uganda Revenue Authority, has been collecting a tax levy imposed on those involved in the exportation of fish and the sole aim was to inject this money in regulating the industry.
According to the Minister of Finance, the tax levy on all fish exporters was to bring in over Shs3 billion (about $1.2 million).
Mr Borel says: “If government uses at least 70 per cent of the tax levy, it would be enough to regulate the industry. We don’t need 100 per cent of the levy as long as enforcement is done.”
“However, we have not seen the government act and many of our members are now operating below capacity, losing contracts because the raw material (fish) is being depleted by illegal fishermen,” Mr Borel lamented.
Some of the regulation measures which were supposed to be put in place was a police to patrol the water resources but according to players this is not yet operational, something which has seen illegal fishing activities increase.
Mr Borel said there was a plan to revive a task force which would be responsible for patrolling the porous border points to curb smuggling of immature fish but this is not being done.
It was because of illegal fishing the European Union slapped a ban on Uganda’s exports in the 1990s. After the ban was lifted, the country gradually regained its glory. However, pockets of illegal fishing have continued to taint the industry and this has seen the export figures go down.
Uganda’s fish exports to the world stood at $125.5 million (Shs326.2 billion) in 2013, indicating a 1.9 per cent growth from $123.4 million (Shs308 billion) earned in 2012. However, this was down from the country’s highest of $150 million (Shs364 billion) revenue earned in 2004.
In the same period, export volumes grew from 10,231 tonnes in 2012 to 18,802 tonnes in 2013.
The top three export destinations (Belgium, Hong Kong & Netherlands) have a combined export market share of 57.7 per cent.
The fastest growing markets for Uganda’s fish exports are: United Arab Emirates, with import growth at 130 per cent in values between 2012 and 2013, followed by Netherlands (26 per cent import growth) and Belgium at 2.6 per cent import growth in the same period.
Export volumes of fish in 2013.
Revenue Uganda earned from fish exports in 2013.