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Kenyas lucrative fish exports under threat

KENYA - Britain has embarked on a grand fish farming project in response to rising demand for locally-produced fish products signalling a possible market shrinkage for Kenyan fish exports.

Analysts said the project, which mainly targets tilapia farming, poses the latest threat to yet another of Kenya’s key exports to Europe after similar consumer sentiments kicked off a bitter trade spat between Kenya and United Kingdom supermarkets over the role of horticultural exports in ongoing global warming debate.

Under this project, tilapia, a native to Africa, could increasingly be produced in the UK, making market penetration more difficult for imported products.

Kenya exports Sh6 billion worth of fish products to Europe with tilapia, which mainly comes from the Lake Victoria basin accounting for nearly 40 per cent of the exports. The meaty, white fish is already farmed in large quantities in Asia and exported to Europe but it is only in recent years that the UK market has shown an interest in locally produced tilapia.

UK’s move comes as Kenya’s fishing sector is also looking at boosting tilapia production to counter falling demand in Europe for Nile Perch. Although it is less costly to produce the fish in Kenya than in the UK, the first entrants to this market say some consumers are prepared to pay more for locally produced fish.

“Currently the market for tilapia in the UK is quite segmented,” explains Dr Francis Murray, research fellow at Stirling University’s Institute of Aquaculture. “It is divided between imports for frozen fish, a large ethnic market and a niche market for high quality, locally produced tilapia. Demand for that segment is increasing and supply can’t keep up.”

While tilapia sells at £3 (Sh400) per kg at London’s Billingsgate fish market, some producers get up to £5 (Sh670) per kg in the niche market where consumers are keen on environmentally friendly credentials and stringent traceability that comes with fish reared nearer to home.

The new tilapia farms use a closed re-circulation system that allows most of the water to be reused, saving substantially on energy as the water conserves the heat needed for the warm water species.

The contained system, which only adds a small amount of replacement water each day, also means a high level of biosecurity.

Source: Business Daily

the Fish Site Editor

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