Uganda Fish Processors and Exporters Association (UFPEA) have walked back on comments that their Chairman Sujal Goswami made last week in context to the fish business.
During a hearing with Parliament’s Agriculture Committee on October 22, 2021; Goswami was quoted by the media to have called for a total ban on the local consumption of the Nile Perch.
He reportedly argued that such a measure would protect the species which is native to River Nile and Lake Albert from illegal fishing methods.
His comments however attracted backlash from a large section of the public and MPs.
On Sunday this week, Charles Tebandeke the Shadow Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries termed this as “diabolical” and one that seeks to alienate locals from the Fish Maw trade.
However, this afternoon UFPEA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Ovia Katiti Matovu appeared to walk back on her boss’s comments, claiming they were misquoted.
“We need to clarify and reiterate that the statement which caused uproar in the media, particularly social media, was not among the points submitted to the committee for consideration. It was just a matter of suggestion out of the meeting which was not well reported and the meaning misconstrued,” Katiti said.
She explained that their Chairman Goswami intended to imply that “there is a lot of fish caught and does not go through the legal channels to benefit the economy or local consumption.”
Despite the fact that UFPEA contributes 90% to the countries’ total fisheries revenues, Katiti told journalists that details of 70% fish harvests are undocumented.
“If we are to safeguard the industry for economic development and employment, this needs to be looked into and channelled through the industry, promote and protect Nile Tilapia which is a local delicacy for the increased population whose demand for nutrition and food security is increasing,” she argued.
On his part, Greenfields Fisheries Managing Director (MD) Phillip Borel said banning local consumption of Nile Perch was inconceivable.
“Nile perch like any other fish in this country is subject to the free market. You can catch Mukene, Tilapia, Semutundu, Emmale anything. We are in a free market. So it is what the price that will determine who gets that fish,” Borel said.
“So in no way do we want any single fish to be reserved for any single entity. Food security and good nutrition is also key to the position of UFPEA on top of an economic change. We are a Ugandan industry rooted in Uganda and we do care about food security,” he further retorted.
The association which was founded in 1992 brings together eleven fish factories and employs 32,000 Ugandans. UFPEA annually exports 29,000 metric tonnes of fish products and rakes in $116 million (approximately Ushs 412 billion).