Uganda lost more than Shs124b in fish exports in the first seven months to July 2020, mainly blamed on a lockdown in key export markets including Europe.
Data from Bank of Uganda indicates that in the period between January and July 2020, Uganda exported 11,402 tonnes of fish worth $72.97m (Shs268b).
However, this was a decline of 46 per cent from the 17,541 tonnes worth $106.53m (Shs392b) that Uganda had exported in the period last year.
Fish exports, according to experts, the fall, while might be temporary, presents challenges to an industry that has been recovering from over a decade of massive decline.
The decline, mainly caused by the poor fishing methods saw several factories close shop for lack of raw materials to process and export.
Mr Sujal Goswami, the Uganda Fish Processors and Exporters Association chairman, yesterday said where there was a decline: “We are still lucky that we earned the $72m. Otherwise it would be worse. The market is very bad.”
The main market destinations, he said, remains the European Union and because of the effects of the Covid-19, it has been difficult to trade there and the situation is not about to change.
Mr Goswami also noted that volumes had been dwindling with “fish arrival pattern changing to low volumes.
“We are worried this will negatively affect revenues further,” he said, noting the change in fish arrival patterns at the factories could have been a result of several research being conducted on different lakes across the country.
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 and 12 per cent to agricultural gross domestic product.
However, this had declined because of immature and illegal fishing which depleted fish out of a number of lakes.
In trying to save the resource and the industry, government intervened through deploying the fisheries protection force that have been patrolling water resources against illegal fishermen.
“Because of this, the stocks have recovered at least by 30 per cent yet we had anticipated reaching this level in two years,” Mr William Tibyasa, the Uganda Fish Processors and Exporters Association deputy chief executive officer, told Daily Monitor in an earlier interview.
The recovery has seen a number of factories, which had closed in the period between August 2018 and 2019 return to work. The industry, which had reduced to five companies, has seen the number go up to 12 factories.