Bitter fish trade as Ugandans take over business

Fred Oyugi in his stall at Kisii Municipal Market on 11/12/2018. Fish traders are calling on the Government to restrict illegal import of fish from Uganda. [Photo, Standard]

Fish traders are calling on the Government to restrict illegal import of fish from Uganda.

They say their businesses are hurting from the large amounts of fish being sold in the local market from Uganda.

The traders who were interviewed hoped the East African trade protocols to which Kenya and Uganda are signatories, would create an equal playing ground for traders from both countries.

"We thought we would be receiving fish from Uganda in bulk and selling them locally through the right channels. But there is a lot of smuggling of fish across the border which has affected the local market ," said Jane Anyango, a local trader.

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Ms Anyango claims that the Ugandan fish smugglers have taken over the trade.

They also hire local public transport vehicles which they use to transport the fish to Nairobi.

“Business has become so bad that some of my colleagues have quit,” said Anyango.

High Levy

She avers that the Kenyan Government has continued to ignore their complaints for the last three years.

Another trader, Rosemary Achieng, claims that Ugandan fishmongers are getting preferential treatment from Kenyan authorities.

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"Public health officials hardly ascertain the safety of the fish since it is transported through public means and these vehicles are hard to identify," said Ms Achieng.

Achieng further claims that the county government promised to build a Sh63 million new fish market and it is yet to do so.

As a result, the traders are finding it difficult to continue operating from the old market which is dilapidated.

The traders have now written to the Director General for Kenya Fisheries Service protesting against the unfair treatment they claim to be getting.

A major protest is the high levy they are charged by Ugandan authorities when exporting fish to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

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 The traders have hired the services of a local law firm, the Owino, Otieno and Rago Company Advocates, to file a case against the unfair treatment from the government.

“The levy on exported fish at the one stop border point is illegal and has affected our clients given that they are small scale traders," read a demand letter from the law firm.

Challenges such as the water hyacinth have made it difficult to fish on the Kenyan side of Lake Victoria.

DRCDemocratic Republic of Congo