Government will charge Shs70,000 as tax on every kilogramme of exported fish maws beginning July 1.
The new levy, which is 10 times the Shs7,000 that government has been charging for every kilogramme of exported fish maws, is contained in the Fish (Amendment) Bill 2021 currently before Parliament.
The Bill is among a raft of tax measures that Finance Minister Matia Kasaija has tabled before Parliament in a bid to raise tax revenue for the 2021/22 financial year.
Fish maws, which had previously been regarded as waste, is highly marketable, especially in China.
They are extracted from large fish such as Nile Perch.
Demand for fish maws, which is a commercial term for dried swim bladders, has been growing over the years, threatening the fish industry due to a rise in illegal fishing methods.
They are served in soups or stew, used in the food industry as a source of collagen and are also used to make water-resistant glue, or isinglass for the clarification of beer.
Ms Joyce Ikwaput Nyeko, the Ministry of Agriculture commissioner for aquaculture, told Daily Monitor that in 2019, Uganda exported 740 tonnes of fish maws or 740,000 kilogrammes from which it earned $76m (Shs281b). However, Covid-19 has since affected the volumes with government returning lower exports than in 2019.
According to data from Fisheries Department, a kilogramme of small fish maws costs Shs160,000 while that of medium-sized maws costs between Shs350,000 and Shs800,000.
However, exporters have questioned how government reached at the shs70,000, which is 10 times more than what they have been paying.
Mr Sujal Goswami, the Uganda Fish Processors and Exporters Association chairman, said they were not sure “where this calculation originated from,” noting government had not made enough research before coming up with the figure.
The amount, he said, is going to make their products uncompetitive because “buyer in China will be reluctant to buy at an extra cost, which this is likely to affect the business”.
According to Mr Goswami, the state should, instead of increasing tax on fish maws, work to eliminate illegalities in the fish industry.
“If they stop illegal trade in fish maws they will get more revenue,” he said.