Uganda challenged to tap into growing global tilapia demand

Fish is weighed for sale. Local farmers have been challenged to produce more for growing global demand. FILE Photo

What you need to know:

Setback. Poor fishing methods continue to see exports declining

Ugandan farmers have been challenged to take advantage of the increasing global tilapia fish demand by boosting production.
Latest reports from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO Globefish) released early this month, indicate that the international tilapia trade has grown due to demand from the United States and many non-traditional emerging markets.

In a recent interview with the Daily Monitor, Uganda Fish Processors and Exporters Association (UFPEA) vice chaiperson Phillip Borel said: “The global demand for tilapia is good for Ugandan farmers who should use it to their advantage by producing more fish.”

Mr Borel, who is also a renown fish exporter under Green Fields (U) Ltd, said Uganda is still a small producer of farm fish but has the potential to grow.

According to the Globefish report, there is increased production of farmed tilapia in the major producing countries of China, Egypt, Indonesia, the Philippines, Brazil, Thailand and Bangladesh.

“This has supported the rising domestic demand and contributed to national food security programmes in 2013 in these countries,” the report noted.

The Globefish report adds that the popularity of tilapia, including the high value, air-flown fresh fillet, continues to grow among US consumers posting all-time records. Although imports in all product categories increased in volume only marginally (+2.9 per cent) last year, the value of tilapia imports crossed over $1 billion (Shs2.5 trillion), which was 7 per cent higher than the value of imports in 2012.

“An important market trend for 2013 was that almost 30 per cent more fresh/chilled fillets were imported than compared with 2012, which was a value increase of $195.8 million (Shs505 billion),” the report noted.

In Africa, countries such as Ghana imported about 2,600 tonnes of tilapia from China in 2013, mostly in whole frozen form. The average Chinese export prices were $1.90 (Shs5,000) per kilogramme.

African countries are increasingly becoming the target markets for Chinese tilapia, especially for whole frozen products.

Uganda fish exports
In 1997 a ban was imposed on fish exports to the European Union markets because of poor hygiene. After the ban was lifted, by 2005 earnings had reached $150 million (about Shs387 billion). However, of illegal fishing practices continued and this saw the export figures go down to the current $80 million (about Shs 206 billion).