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Mixed reactions over fish imports from China

A dish for fish and lemon for dinner.
BY KENNETH OGOSIA
newsdesk@dailyreporter.co.ke
A report that Kenya is importing fish from China has elicited mixed reactions from Nyanza residents that is home to Lake Victoria the largest tropical lake in the world.
Some of the residents have supported the importation of Nile perch and tilapia fish from China saying the fishing industry in the Lake Victoria region has been ignored while others said such imports will affect the region’s development.
Among those opposed to the importation of fish from China is Alego Usonga MP George Muluan Omondi who asked Nyanza residents to boycott the fish from China.
The MP who doubted the health standards of the imported fish when he appeared on a talk show at a local radio station was however questioned on the sincerity of his statements by callers.
The MP had difficult time persuading some listeners not to eat the fish imported from China.
Some of the radio listeners said the imports were a necessary evil as the government and leaders from Nyanza had failed to develop the fishing industry around Lake Victoria by investing in refrigeration plants and factories.
“We have been let down by our leaders and the government. We have no factories and cooling plants. Prices of local fish are high and poor people cannot afford. The ones from China are very cheap,” one caller said.
The MP somehow agreed with them but insisted that as one of the industry players owning a fish factory in the area he felt let down.
“Our people are exploited by rich foreigners who don’t care about the potential of the lake. They are the same people now doing business with the Chinese,” the Alego-Usonga MP said.
Fish from China has flooded the markets in Nyanza .It is said that fish processing companies in Kisumu have cut down on their operations as a result of dwindling supply from Lake Victoria and are instead importing the commodity from China.
The imported tilapia, is packaged, frozen and imported to Kenya by Zhangzou Longyi Food Company Limited. East African Sea Food Limited, a local company, is said to be its Kenya agent.
A carton of fish at the Kisumu go-down is selling for Sh 2,000. The 10kg carton holds 60 pieces of tilapia, each weighing between 200-300 grammes. This means a piece of the imported tilapia goes for Sh30 in the market.
The imported tilapia is cheaper than the local ones which cost between Sh100 and Sh200.
An unnamed source at EASF who sought anonymity, reportedly said that the company’s decision to start importing tilapia was informed by the growing demand for tilapia against a decline in fish catch in the lake.
“It is the businessmen who were finding it hard getting the fish right here who requested us to import on their behalf,” said the source as quoted by the Standard newspaper. The said company serves both retailers and individual buyers.
“We are doing a clean business. We are paying taxes and following rules,” the source added but refused to disclose the quantity of fish that they bring to Kisumu from China.
It is easy to identify the imported fish as tilapia from Lake Victoria comes in huge baskets, while the ones from China are brought in cartons. The scales are removed, dissected and washed before the imported fish is transported to the market for display on the numerous concrete slabs there.
Dickson Onyango, a broker in the imported tilapia business, gets between Sh300 and Sh600 per carton of the fish by just ferrying it from the factory to the fish market which is adjacent to Kisumu Bus Park.

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