By George Munene
The Ministry of Agriculture has warned of a 360 million kilogram fish shortage in the next four years.
“There is already a significant gap between the projected demand and production. This is expected to increase to 360 thousand metric tons by 2025,” said Lawrence Omuhaka, the Chief Administrative Secretary for Livestock and Fisheries.
According to the government’s 2019 budget policy statement, Kenya’s annual fish demand was estimated at 500,000 tonnes. However, local fish production stood at only 180,000 tonnes. The numbers of fish captured from natural water bodies have also been on a steady yearly decline owing to overfishing, illegal fishing, and cold weather.
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Kenya has had to supplement most of its catch with fish imports, especially from China. Chinese imported fish accounted for 8,900 tonnes in 2020, a Covid-19 induced drop from 18,074 tonnes, in 2019. This translates to Sh2.2 billion worth of fish. Chinese imports made up 90 per cent of fish shipped into the country, mainly as frozen tilapia and mackerel.
Speaking during the handout of fishing inputs for the Aquaculture Business Development Program beneficiaries in Siaya, Omuhaka warned that the drop in fish production has led to a corresponding decline in the per capita average consumption of fish to an average of just 3.5 kilograms per person per year compared to a global average of 16.4 kilograms.
He further raised alarm on the high cost of fish farming in the country, pointing out that imported Chinese fish takes a month to get to Kenya, yet is still cheaper than locally caught produce.
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Fish are a good source of protein, vitamins, and minerals (B12, vitamin D, iodine, and zinc) that are beneficial in supporting healthy growth in infants and young children, as well as the normal growth and development of children and helping adults maintain muscle.
It is also high in omega-3 fatty acids, essential for the development of the brain and eyes.
Eating at least one serving of fish per week has also been linked to reduced risk of heart attacks and strokes, two of the world’s biggest causes of death.
It is recommended that young children, pregnant and lactating mothers eat at least one serving of fish per week