Market Watch: How weather determines fish prices

What you need to know:

Fish is popular part of Ugandans’ diet and different people prefer to eat in different forms depending on their tastes. While they always find it on the market, rains or sunshine determine how much will be available and at what price.

Fish are always on the market and it is once in a while that prices will change. Unlike meat where consumers are alert about price changes, like during the festive seasons, for fish, the prices vary depending on weather change and the level of demand.

Although there are always price fluctuations, fish is readily available on the market, no matter the cost.

“People buy more tilapia and Nile Perch, the two common types than any other kind. The other types like mud and cat fish are bought once in a while, and have a certain class of people that demand it,” says Wilson Muyonjjo, a trader at Mulungu landing site in Munyonyo.

Unfavourable weather
He adds that prices rise when there are strong winds and heavy rains because this makes it hard for fishermen to catch fish because of the big waves on the lake that come with the wind.

“People think that the more it rains, the more the fish come closer. Instead, it is hard for the fishermen to cast their nets leading to fewer fish caught and increased prices.”

The current weather is unfavourable, according to Muyonjjo. He purchases a bundle of nine big tilapia for between Shs120,000 and Shs130,000 and sells each at Shs20,000.

A bundle of the small ones costs between Shs80,000 and Shs90,000 and sells each at Shs5,000. Nile Perch costs from Shs10,000 to Shs400,000 depending on the size and weight. A kilo is currently at Shs14,000 but can go as low as Shs10,000.

During the favourable seasons, a bundle of big nine tilapias cost between Shs80,000 and 100,000 where one is sold at Shs15,000. A bundle of 10 small ones will cost between Shs50,000 and Shs60,000, and each one costs between Shs2,000 and Shs3,000.

Auction basis
But Ms Agnes Kavuuma, a trader at Kansanga market, says the selling price is normally determined by how much one invests. “Before setting prices, I calculate the profit after deducting all incurred costs. When the incurred costs are high, the selling price will be hiked and vice versa,” she said.

During the low seasons, a bundle of four big tilapias cost between Shs75,000 and Shs85,000. One goes for Shs20,000, a medium-sized fish cost between Shs10,000 and Shs15,000 then a small one at Shs5,000.

“It’s during this time that fishermen complain of the storms blowing off their nets hence failing to get enough fish yet the demand is always high, ” she says. “Traders compete with hotel, beaches and restaurants, because of this, price remains high since we purchase on an auction basis where the highest bidder wins.”

At Kansanga Market, a kilo of raw Nile Perch costs Shs15,000 and a fried piece is sold between Shs6,000 and Shs6,500, depending on the size. Sometimes, the price of a kilo goes as low as Shs12,000, according to the traders at the market.

Smoked fish cost between Shs5,000 to Shs30,000 depending on the type and the size.

Kavuuma says, catfish, commonly known as Semutundu, is scarce. Sometimes, her customers place advance orders for it.

“It is hard for people who don’t know this type of fish to ask for it because of its scary appearance. However, those who know about it; do not usually mind about the prices,” she says.

Different types
She purchases one big catfish at Shs40,000 and sells it at Shs50,000, a small one at Shs7,000 and sells it at Shs10,000. When the price is as low as Shs30,000, she sells at Shs35,000 and buys a small one at Shs5,000 and sells at Shs7,000.

Shanitah Nakakande, who deals in smoked fish, says the prices of fish vary according to the size and type and also the weather.

In stable weather, she buys smoked tilapia between Shs8,000 and Shs15,000 and sells at between Shs15,000 to Shs30,000.

During the unstable weather, the purchase price will rise to between Shs9,000 to Shs17,000 then she will sell at between Shs10,000 and Shs35,000.

Smoked Nile Perch will cost between Shs6,000 and Shs9,000 and sells between Shs8,000 to 10,000. And during the unstable weather, the purchase price will rise to between Shs9000 and Shs10,000 and she sells between Shs10,000 to 13,000.

A basket of smoked catfish costs her Shs300,000, and she sells each at between Shs20,000 and Shs50,000 depending on the size. She sets her price considering the costs involved; she gets the fish from Koome and Misenyi islands in Mukono District.

Meanwhile, Ms Sauda Nabatanzi, a smoked fish seller at Ggaba market says she deals in all types because of the different kinds of customers that approach her stall.

“I have fish that ranges from Shs200 to 50,000. It depends on what one wants and how much he or she has. People have different standards of living, I don’t discriminate,” she says. “I have always sold more Nile Perch than tilapia because it is cheaper. But there are people who normally go for smoked tilapia because it tastes better than Nile Perch and it does not have a strong smell.”

However, it is not only smoked fish that is sold at the landing sites. There is also silver fish, which is locally known as mukene.

Annette Azio, who deals in this type says, the demand for it is like the one for the big fish; customers come once in a while. Although the market is not as big as that for the other fish, prices also fluctuate.

“There are times when prices go high, like when supply is low. I purchase a medium-sized bucket at Shs10,000 and sell a mug at Shs1,000 and half of it at 500, when the supply is high,” she says. “When the supply is low, the purchase price is high. A medium-sized bucket is at Shs12,000 and then I will sell a mug at Shs1,500 and half of it at 700.”

Certain clients
Peter Ssebagala, the only dealer in fillet fish (without bones) at Ggaba Market, supplies to supermarkets, restaurants and hotels. He even supplies as far as Mukono, Mbarara, Arua, Kasese and Jinja.

“My clients are the kind deal with many people and have no time to sort out the bones. I sell a kilo at Shs17,000,” he says. “Sometimes I spend up to Shs1m and end up without any profit because my clients have a set price they buy the fish at. In that case, I suffer the losses will continue with the business,” he notes.

Either way, whether it is raining hard and windy and it is difficult for the fisherman to make catches or it is very hot and the fish move deeper into the lake, weather is an important factor in the final price on the market whether it is fresh, smoked, fried or fillet fish.


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