Shs20b from fish exports lies idle

Workers weigh fish before packaging for eventual exportation. Private businesspeople dealing in the fish business fault government for failing to show where revenue collected from taxes on fish goes. FILE PHOTO

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Government is on the spot for failing to put money collected from fish exports to proper use, Dorothy Nakaweesi writes.

Fish exporters have asked government to explain what happened to the consolidated fund which they were tasked to contribute to through a levy and why it’s not put to its intend use.
During the Budget reading of 2013/14 government instituted a levy on fish exports as a non-tax revenue from fishing vessels and other licence and permit sources.
This money, which is collected by Uganda Revenue Authority on fish exports, is kept in a consolidated fund and its main purpose is to help support the fisheries resources recovery and development of aquaculture/fish farming.
This money has so far accumulated to more than Shs20 billion and is lying idle.

In an interview with Prosper Magazine, Mr William Tebyasa, the Uganda Fish Exporters Association programme officer, said: “As an industry we need to go back to the agreement to see that the money collected from the fish exports is put to its intended purpose.”
Mr Tebyasa said that if this money was put into its rightful use and the water resources protected they would not have seen some of their members close shop for lack of products to export.
According to the rules of the levy, exporters of the fish fillets contribute 5 cents of a dollar per kilogramme, those in high value fish products such as maws are levied 20 cents of dollar per kilogramme, while other low value fish products including Silver Fish are levied 2 cents of dollar.

In an interview with Prosper Magazine on this matter, Mr Phillip Borel, the managing director, Green Fields, one of the fish exporting companies situated in Entebbe, Wakiso District, said: “We had suggested that the aquaculture should not be subjected to a levy to encourage new investors in the industry to boost production but this was not done.”
Mr Borel advised government to identify and ring fence the fund from levy so that it goes to the management of wild fish resources.
When contacted, the minister of Agriculture, Mr Bamulangaki Ssempijja, said he was not aware of the issue but promised to give a response after consulting his team.
However, several follow-up calls to the minister went unanswered.

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 (GDP) and 12 per cent to agricultural GDP.
Fish exports to overseas markets increased from 1,664 tonnes valued at $1.4 million (Shs5 billion) in 1990 to a peak of 36,615 tonnes valued at $143.6m (Shs517 billion) in 2005.
There was a decrease to 17,597 tonnes worth $134.791m (Shs 485 billion) by 2014 further going down to $113.0m (Shs409 billion) in 2015.

More than 1.3 million Ugandans are employed in the fish value chain (fishing, processing, transporting, boat making, nets cleaning & trading as a result of the fish export products.