Kenya’s fish imports from China plunge, market prices rise



Economy

Kenya’s fish imports from China plunge, market prices rise


A fishmonger sells tilapia at an outdoor market in Nairobi. PHOTO | REUTERS

Geraldandae

summary

  • Industry data indicates that the value of imports from China increased from 2.2 billion shillings in 2019 to 1.5 billion shillings last year.
  • The reduction in imports saw local fish prices rise by an average of 11% to 175 shillings per kilo last year from 158 shillings in 2019.

The value of fish imports from China fell 31% or 700 million shillings last year due to disruptions from the Covid-19 pandemic, spiking prices in a cut that cushioned traders and the local fishermen of the cheap shipment.

Industry data shows that the value of imports from China fell from 2.2 billion shillings in 2019 to 1.5 billion shillings last year, as quantities shipped from China fell significantly – the first decline in five years.

The reduction in imports saw local fish prices rise by an average of 11% to 175 shillings per kilo last year from 158 shillings in 2019.

The value of Chinese fish imports has steadily increased over the past five years as the Chinese take advantage of their cheaper supplies to gain a foothold in the Kenyan market, causing an uproar among fish traders and local fishermen.

The issue of the flooding of Chinese fish in local markets sparked diplomatic unrest between Nairobi and Beijing in 2018 when President Uhuru Kenyatta said Kenyan government officials should find ways to reduce imports.

Fisheries Director Daniel Mungai said the decline was caused by a drop in activities around the world last year caused by the Covid-19 outbreak which disrupted not only fishing activities but also its travel.

“In general, there has been a decline in world trade last year and the fishing industry has not been spared, as shown by the decline we have experienced in China during the review period,” a- he declared.

The city of Wuhan in China was the epicenter of the Covid-19 epidemic, causing a global disruption to trade due to the strict measures imposed to curb its spread.

Chinese fish, mainly tilapia, are normally cheaper than local catches. A kilogram of fish imported from China costs 250 shillings while local meat sells for between 350 shillings and 400 shillings depending on the size.

Mr Mungai said Kenya could not avoid imports from China due to the country’s local deficit, catch volumes at Lake Victoria, which is the country’s main source of fish, have been declining for years.

Last year, the volumes caught in Lake Victoria increased from 90,000 to 86,000 metric tonnes, according to the fisheries bureau.

Despite the decline last year, China still accounted for the largest share of the world’s imported fish, totaling 70% of the total value of shipments in 2020.

Gikomba Fish Traders Chairman Paul Oyimba said there was now a reprieve at the fish market following a sharp drop in merchandise from China.

“We are no longer in competition with Chinese fish at the moment due to the lack of Chinese fish here. All the stocks that we are currently selling come from Lake Victoria and Lake Naivasha, ”he said.



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