Kenya Fish imports from China are falling, market prices are rising
Monday, April 26, 2021
BY GERALD ANDAE
- Industry data shows that the value of imports from China fell from Sh 2.2 billion in 2019 to Sh 1.5 billion last year.
- Due to the reduced imports, local fish prices rose from 158 in 2019 by an average of 11 percent to 175 Sh per kilo last year.
The value of fish imports from China fell 31 percent, or Sh 700 million, last year due to disruptions in the Covid-19 pandemic, leading to a price spike that discouraged local traders and fishermen from the cheap shipment.
Industry data shows that the value of imports from China fell from Sh 2.2 billion in 2019 to Sh 1.5 billion last year as volumes shipped from China fell significantly – the first drop in five years.
Due to the reduced imports, local fish prices rose from 158 in 2019 by an average of 11 percent to 175 Sh per kilo last year.
The value of Chinese fish imports has risen steadily over the past five years as the Chinese use their cheaper supplies to gain a foothold in the Kenyan market, causing turmoil among local fishmongers and fishermen.
The issue of Chinese fish flooding local markets sparked diplomatic unease between Nairobi and Beijing in 2018 when President Uhuru Kenyatta said Kenyan government officials should find ways to curb imports.
Fisheries director Daniel Mungai said the decline was due to a global slump in business last year caused by the Covid-19 outbreak, which disrupted not only fishing activities but their movement as well.
“In general, there has been a decline in world trade over the past year and the fish industry has not been spared, as evidenced by the decline we saw from China over the period,” he said.
The city of Wuhan, China, was the epicenter of the Covid-19 outbreak, causing global trade disruption due to tough measures taken to contain the spread.
Chinese fish, mainly tilapia, are usually cheaper than local catches. A kilo of fish imported from China costs Sh250, while local meat sells between Sh350 and Sh400 depending on the size.
Mr Mungai said Kenya cannot avoid imports from China because the local deficit in the country, where catches on Lake Victoria, the country’s main source of fish, has been dwindling for years, has been decreasing.
Last year, the quantities caught from Lake Victoria fell from 90,000 to 86,000 tons, according to the fisheries office.
Despite the decline last year, China still had the largest proportion of fish imported from the world, accounting for 70 percent of the total value of the shipment in 2020.
Paul Oyimba, chairman of Gikomba Fish Traders, said there is now a reprieve in the fish market after a sharp drop in goods from China.
“We are currently no longer competing with Chinese fish because there are no Chinese fish here. All of the stocks we are selling now come from Lake Victoria and Lake Naivasha, ”he said.