Cheap China fish here to stay, CS tells traders

Agriculture secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri
Agriculture secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The government has reiterated its defence of fish imports such as tilapia and salmon from China saying it was necessitated by unmet demand locally.

Kenyan fishermen and traders have protested the flooding of cheap imports which they say has skewed the local market.

“It is about supply and demand,” Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri said Wednesday in Mombasa, adding that the government cannot ban imported fish.

Fish from China is cheaper compared to local catch with tilapia from the Asian country going for Sh150-Sh300 a kilo while the Kenyan variety goes for Sh400.

Nile Perch fetches about Sh320 a kilo while tuna from China dominates most of the market at the Coast.

“We are not sufficient...There is a gap in supply which the Chinese fish import is filling. Our fish production cannot meet the high demand. We cannot produce enough fish for the market. The issue is not whether they are flooding but their competitiveness...The market is wide open,” said Mr Kiunjuri.

Under-utilised potential

The CS recently said Kenya has not exploited resources in the blue economy due to a lack of resources for fishing.

In 2016, president Uhuru Kenyatta declared war on illegal fishing by foreign ships in Kenya’s Economic Exclusive Zone (EEZ) in the Indian Ocean saying it robs the country of Sh10 billion annually.

Kenya’s Indian Ocean waters have the potential to produce 300,000 tonnes of fish annually valued at about Sh75 billion.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) says the Indian Ocean could sustainably provide up to 300,000 tonnes of fish a year, but the country collected just under 10,000 tonnes or a sixth of what neighbouring Tanzania caught.

Kenyan fishermen, however, say they cannot compete with foreign illegal fishers because they are ill-equipped.