Sunday, April 22, 2018

23/04/2018: How inadequate cold storage systems constrain East Africa’s seafood market

by Shem Oirere, Journalist, East Africa

East Africa’s fisheries sector continues to grapple with the persistent challenge of inadequate, or a lack of cold storage facilities coupled with a troubled refrigerated transport industry whose woes resonate across the region’s food supply chain.

These inadequacies have contributed to the high post-harvest fish losses (PHFLs) whether in terms of physical damage, decline in quality or constrained market performance in a region that is also characterised by poor access roads, unstable electricity supply, inadequate landing sites and a weak policy enforcement culture.

The United Nations agency, ‘Food and Agriculture Organization’ (FAO) estimates that Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda incur PHFLs of between seven percent and 40 percent of their sardine fish and between five percent and 28 percent of fresh tilapia fish production in a year because of long and unreliable transport, lack or inadequate fish preservation facilities, use of crude equipment such as spears and hooks and also market forces that could be responding to situations such as oversupply of the fish.

The PHFLs could be much higher were researchers to overcome constraints in data collection, which the FAO says is “rather a challenge due to complexes in the industry” such as the many fish species in the tropics, varying fishing methods and equipment, many landing sites and deployment of different preservation and storage systems.

A previous sample survey by FAO among selected sub Saharan African countries estimated physical losses by sardine fish operators in Kenya at 7.5 percent while loss of quality of the same fish shot up to 18.7 percent or an equivalent of 3,600 tonnes every year. The survey indicated the country losses up to 28 percent of the quality of its fresh tilapia harvest annually.

For Tanzania, FAO found out the country’s fish operators suffer physical loss of up to 40 percent of their sardine fish harvest or an equivalent of up to 28,000 tonnes annually. Their losses in quality of the sardine catch goes up to 20 percent or an equivalent of 14000 tonnes every year.

A similar situation was observed in Uganda where physical losses in sardine fish goes up to 40 percent or 11,000 tonnes per a year and up to a five percent loss in quality of the same type of fish.

It would appear there is little public and private investment directed into solving the challenges that contribute to high PHFLs in East Africa despite the potential of aquaculture to turn around for the better the earnings of fish operators in the region and boost contribution of the sector to the respective countries’ gross domestic product (GDP).

Read the full article, HERE.

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