Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | China has opened up its market for the importation of fish maw from Uganda.
Fish maw also known as swim bladder is a white hard membrane found inside the body of the Nile Perch.
A kilogram of small-sized fish maw costs 160,000 Shillings on the local market while a kilogram of medium-sized maws costs between 350,000 and 800,000 Shillings. A large maw that can make more than a Kilogram costs up to 1,100,000. The maw costs between USD 450 (1.6 million Shillings) to 1,000 (3.6 million Shillings) on the international market.
The fish maw is used to among other functions make surgical threads, plane parts, drugs and also used as food in different Asian countries. About 3,882 metric tons of fish product is exported to the different countries across the world annually. Uganda has only been exporting the product to China through other Asian countries.
However, the people’s Republic of China, through its Department of Food and Drug Administration, has accepted the direct importation of the product from Uganda through the Directorate of Fisheries under the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries.
A protocol between the two countries has been signed and the Ministry expects to start exporting fish maws directly to china in February.
Edward Rukuunya, the director of the fisheries department in the Ministry estimates an export of up to 520 metric tons of the product and 26,000 metric tons of headless gutted fish. Rukuunya told Uganda Radio Network on Wednesday afternoon that such a target will also require the ministry of Agriculture to domesticate the rearing of Nile Perch.
He says that efforts have been undertaken by the Fisheries Resources Institute and the National Agricultural Research Organization – NARO to have tests done on Nile Perch.
In 2018, fish maw contributed up to USD 52.1 million (about 190 billion Shillings). However, some of the exported fish maws has been processed by a handful of fish processing companies while most fish maws are processed using artisanal means raising quality assurance issues.
With the emergence of a direct market in China, the fisheries department of the Ministry of Agriculture has introduced guidelines that must be followed by all those involved in the processing of the fish maws to ensure that quality is maintained.
Among the guidelines, a company involved in the processing of the fish maw must be cleared by the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries after acquiring facilities that can be used in the processing of the fish maw, each factory must acquire a fish and trade license, a fish movement permit and all maws must be free from harmful substances.
The processors must also meet the veterinary hygiene that is required to process maws for human consumption while the exportation will also be consonant with both the Chinese and Ugandan export trade laws.
Before the Ministry of Agriculture offers a license to process fish maws, an inspection certificate must be shown to the directorate of fisheries which will, in turn, determine on the set guidelines to offer the permit.
Sujal Goswami, the chairperson of the Uganda Fish Processors and Exporters Association says such stringent guidelines will ensure the quality of the high-end food products that will be exported to China.
The Minister of State for fisheries Hellen Adoa now says that with the emergence of such market, the ministry is now going to embark on closing out the black markets for fish maw to ensure the country gets the best out of its exports.