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Local Fish Farmers Fret Over Cheap Fish Imports

By Branton Matondo

Influx of cheap fish produce from neighboring Zambia, Namibia, Mozambique and China in the far east is choking local fish producers who continue to peg their harvest at higher prices amid high production costs, Post On Sunday reports.

The productivity and lucrative base of locally based fish farmers, who take advantage of over 9000 water bodies across the country in producing various fish produce, the major being tilapia is under threat from lowly priced fish imports which continue to dictate pricing dynamics in the local market.

Zimbabwe Fish Producers Association (ZFPA) Vice President and National Development and Outreach Coordinator Sokonia Kaitano told Post On Sunday that the crux of the matter is price difference between imports and local produce.

“It is true that Zambian fish producers are bringing their fish products in Zimbabwe. They have very big fish starting from 400g to nearly 2kg in sizes.  At the moment this supply is not significant nor disturbing our market as demand for fish is still high. The only challenge is on the prices that the Zambian fish present because at the moment prices are pegged at USD $3/kg whereas the cost of our fish are USD $3 farm gate prices. Our farmers will not compete with this kind of market price as there production cost for farmed fish is also high, at the same time they’re producing smaller sizes of less than 400g, ” said Kaitano.

He added that dynamics in price differences has been coupled with a sharp shoot in demand of fish in Zimbabwe which remain unattended to by local producers.

“This is not only Zambian fish but also Chinese breams which lands here on very cheap price. Not only this but markerel fish from Namibia. Our challenge is on the price differences. Our production cost is very high, we can’t compare with Zambians and Chinese. Our inputs cost are very high, compliance costs are also high. However, demand for fish is increasing in Zimbabwe yet our production is very low. At the moment we are producing less than 9000 metric tons of fish per annum yet we need to produce over 40000 metric tons of fish per annum only for the domestic market. This last winter period Zimbabwe had no fish products in the market. Most supermarkets had no fish for sale and some were selling very small size fish of less 250g, this is where the Zambian market is taking an advantage. They started with a single 30 ton truck per week but now they have since increased.”

In an interview with Post On Sunday Spring Glory Fish Farm Coordinator Simon John lamented on the continuous flow of fish imports, a feat that has choked business for local producers across the board due to clear cut price variations.

“Major challanges are fish from Zambia which are hoarded at low  price and flood the market. This has had a great impact on demand of our local produce.”

Quizzed on how business has been for the Mutasa South based fish farming project John cited a low turn out of demand from the first quarter of the year due to various reasons championed by expensive fish feed.

“For aquaculture its was trick due to high cost of production. Basically, it was caused by expensive feed in the industry. For fish market there were sights of demand and we did not fetch good prices due to fish from Zambia which comes at low cost.

The fish farming sector is awaiting the Aquaculture bill which will assist in expanding fish farming industry by harmonizing various pieces of legislation affecting the Aquaculture industry.

Zimbabwe used to export at least 20 metric tons of fish to Zambia everyday but now the trend has gone vice versa. Countries like Zambia and Namibia have seen a huge growth in fish farming sector by creating a solution based approach for medium and small scale producers.

Among a plethora of challenges faced by fish farmer’s Zimbabwe also lacks abattoirs and cold chain facilities.

“In fact challenges of our fish farmers is on the cost of inputs and long distances required for them to move fingerlings which is also risky to their business. Fingerlings must be accessed from close by. There is also need to establish fry hubs in different provinces which would help a lot. In Zimbabwe we don’t have fish abattoirs, surely we cannot make every small scale farmer have a cold chain facility, I am sure others should just produce and others take care of the abattoirs and markets, ” Kaitano said.

Initiatives like Profishblue Project by AFDB-SADC, cold chain truck setup has also benefited Zimbabwe and countries within the region.

It is however a sad development that the biggest fish producer in Zimbabwe, Lake Harvest, has also casted nets into Zambia. During a workshop in Harare with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Fish farmers highlighted a number of challenges which include laws and policies, licensing and cost of doing business in Zimbabwe that has hugely affected the industry. the current economic situation is also increased number of poachers and mongers in various waters bodies,  as they harvest any size using parallel means which affect the growth and sustainability of fish business in Zimbabwe.