Coronavirus Provides Unexpected Help for Kenyan Fishermen
The spread of the new coronavirus has unexpectedly helped fishermen in Kenya.
More Kenyans are now buying freshly caught fish from Lake Victoria instead of frozen fish imported from China.
Kenya bought $23.2 million worth of frozen fish from China in 2018. The International Trade Center reports that almost all of Kenya’s fish imports came from China. Kenyan fishermen have long noted that the low-cost imports were harming the country’s fishing industry.
But the coronavirus pandemic has slowed Chinese imports. In Kenya, many buyers have now turned to local fish. However, Kenya will soon face shortages unless imports from China are re-started. China produces just over one third of what people in Kenya eat.
One Kenyan fisherman profiting from the new interest in fresh fish is 38-year-old Maurice Misodhi from Kisumu. He says China’s efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus seemed to have stopped imports of low-cost Chinese fish.
“As fishermen, we can now smile, not because people are suffering from coronavirus, but because we can now sell our fish, and at a good price,” Misodhi said.
A month ago, one kilogram of Nile perch cost 250 shillings or about $2.50. Now, the price is up to $3.50.
Fish trader Mary Didi usually buys from Chinese suppliers but now buys from Misodhi.
She says, “The supply at the Chinese importers has gone down, and many of my customers were also scared of the Chinese fish, thinking they would contract the virus. To keep the business running, I had to turn to fish from the lake.”
Bob Otieno is chairman of the Dunga Beach Management Unit. He says sales of locally caught fish have risen. He said the area records a catch of between 1 and 1.5 tons of fish each day. He added that sales have gone up from 50% of the catch to 90% over the past two weeks. Before, fishermen would eat, trade or give away around half of their catch.
Otieno told the Reuters news agency, “We used to have many fishermen sell their catch at low prices because of competition from the Chinese fish.”
Kenya produces 180,000 tons of fish each year, but eats about 500,000 tons, according to 2019 government records.
Christine Adhiambo is the government’s assistant director of fisheries for Kenya’s lake region. She said the two biggest importers of Chinese fish had not shipped from China since November. She noted that Kenya could face shortages soon.
“Kenya cannot satisfy its local fish demand,” she said. “That is why we heavily rely on supplements from China.”
I’m Jonathan Evans.