Lake Victoria
Lake Victoria Fisheries Organisation
Responsible Fisheries Business Chain Project

Chinese culinary and sex appetites a boon for East Africa fish exporters

A new study commissioned by the Lake Victoria Fisheries Organisation (LVFO) in collaboration with the Responsible Fisheries Business Chain Project under the German development agency GIZ advises the East African nations to formalise the trade in maw for it to contribute fairly to the well-being of communities living around Lake Victoria.

Dried swim bladder is a delicacy in China, where it ranks number four among sea treasures in the country’s cuisine after clams and oysters, sea cucumber and shark fin. They are also used in the production of aphrodisiacs.

Requirements by factories in Tanzania and Kenya, for example, and a recent directive in Uganda that all fish be supplied with their maw to processing factories, are partly to blame, according to the report.

Authorities in the region consider many actors in the chain to be illegitimate. They have resorted to smuggling maw across borders in a bid to obtain better prices.

The absence of Chinese buyers in Kisumu, Kenya, strict licensing for regional exporters and the taxation system in Tanzania, as well as a perceived laxity in the regulatory system associated with maw trade in Uganda are being blamed for the smuggling of the product.

The previous arrangement between factories and fish suppliers — where factories would give back their maw to fish suppliers — has now been banned in Uganda. The fish suppliers would then sell the maw to Chinese traders to export to Uganda.

The governments should also develop a regulation requiring fish factories to return maw to fish suppliers if they cannot pay for it, and devise a licensing procedure for all players in the value chain.

The governments should also increase awareness among fishing crew, boat owners, fish suppliers and agents of the value of maw and train them in trading and proper handling of the commodity.

“The EAC partner states should through the LVFO strengthen acquisition and management of data by the Nile perch value chain actors and carry out research on the use of maw from other fish species and on maw value added products,” the report notes.

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