Fish Emergency

An unusually long drought and the subsequent energy crisis due to low water levels at Uganda’s main hydropower dam are likely to hit the country’s economic growth this year and will have severe consequences on the fish sector.

Fish exporters have complained about the country not meeting its fish quota to the European Union because of an irregular supply of power coupled with low water levels, which affect fish catch quantities. The country risks losing its position as a major fish exporter to the EU because of the excessive power outages. Fish exports from Uganda consist mainly of frozen filets.

The current drought in the region has significantly lowered Lake Victoria water levels, resulting in a power shortage is a major threat to the fish sector’s capacity to operate a cold-chain production that complies with the stringent consumer regulations imposed by the European Union. Having twice suffered bans over quality from the EU, fish processors have to maintain a cold-chain right from the landing site to world supermarkets.

Industry insiders say that unless the government provides more electricity or a tax break on diesel, Uganda could end up with more fish than it can process – a factor that is already leading dairy farmers to pour away excess milk. The drop in levels has also adversely affected fish reproduction in Lake Victoria.

Another danger from the recession in water levels arises from the fact that the drying up of wetlands around the lake encourages human settlement much closer to the lake, leading to increased dumping of effluent and toxic waste.

The East African

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