Fish traders are not benefiting from the sector as production declines substantially
Fish prices have gone up because of a reduction in production from Lake Tana, Tekeze Dam and Arba Minch. Following the decline in production, prices have hiked. The earnings for those engaged in the trade have, however, declined, according to fish traders.
“Lake Tana fish production has declined because of the unrest in the region, while the Arba Minch and Tekeze have decreased because of the environmental impacts of global warming,” Abinet Laqew, a fish trader, told Fortune.
The number of fish species at Tekeze Dam has declined and fishing has been officially prohibited since last month.
“The Tekeze Dam fish species are now threatened because of illegal fishing,” Tesfa Gofie, a fish expert at the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries (EMLF), said.
The annual fish supply of the Tekeze Dam was 3,500tn in the 2014/15 fiscal year, a report by the Ministry reads. The Tekeze River has over 10 fish species.
The Tana river covers around 3,600sqkm and has the capacity to produce 10,000 tonnes of fish a year.
“Currently, the demand for fish has become higher than the supply in the local market,” Ashenafi Laqew, general manager of Arba Minch Restaurant, which specialises in fish dishes, says.
The main fish suppliers for the Addis Abeba market are Arba Minch, Lake Tana and Tekeze Dam, and owing to the various reasons, the price of fish and its availability has been impacted.
The most demanded fish species, cocktail, has not been sold in the market for a while now, because the only producer of the fish variety, Tekeze Dam, has stopped production.
“As a result of the decline in production, the price of cocktail fish has risen more than twofold,” Abinet noted. “That is if you find it in stores. Stocks are rapidly emptying, and the cost has increased from 50Br a kilo to 150-180Br a kilo.”
There is also a similar situation with Nile Perch, which is retailing for as much as 300Br a kilo.
“Improvements in the fishery sector would contribute to poverty alleviation and environmental sustainability in Ethiopia,” research by the Global Fish Alliance shows.
Ethiopia’s potential annual fish supply is 94,000tn. In the last fiscal year, the country produced 51,300tn of fish, according to the Ministry’s report.
“The Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s (SNNP) region showed improvements in the last fiscal year, with 14,000 tonnes of fish supplied, while the Amhara State has not shown any improvement because of the impacts of climate change, such as rising temperature, as well as the recent unrest in Bahir Dar, where Lake Tana is located, which is expected to result in decreased catches,” Tesfa, from the Ministry, stated.
There are 180 species of fish in Ethiopia, out of which 30 are native. Nine of these fishes are used in the commercial market for consumption purposes, including catfish, tilapia and cocktail. Ethiopian fish species are all fresh water, coming from its many lakes, rivers, dams and reservoirs.
In 2013/14, the total production of fish was 38,371tn. This increased by 33.6pc.
In 2014/15, the Amhara region recorded the highest quantity of fish sales in the nation, accounting for 49.4pc of the country’s total production. Total returns from fish marketing have increased annually by an average 42.4pc. In 2013/14, the total return collected from fish marketing was 583.6 million Br; in 2014/15, this increased by 73.03pc to reach one billion birr.
In the 2014/15 fiscal year, 77.6pc of the total fish was harvested from lakes, while the least production come from Aqua culture, which harvested less than one percent. The rest was harvested from reservoirs and rivers. The majority of fish producers in the nation are cooperatives involved in fishery – currently comprising 89pc of the total fish producers.
There is a plan to produce 95,602tn of fish by the end of the GTP II. According to this plan, 75pc of the fish product is expected to be harvested from lakes.
In 2013/14, the total export earnings made from fish was 7.83 million Br. This then declined to 3.75 million Br in 2014/15 – 52pc less than the previous fiscal year. The decline in fish export earnings is the result of environmental impacts