Ugandan fishermen, buyers, transporters, and processors within the agricultural sector are expected to have easier entrance into the local and global markets following the revision and simplification of the Commonwealth trade standards.
Under the Commonwealth Standards Network (CSN) platform, Commonwealth countries and their national standards bodies to exchange ideas, promote and share best trade international standards. The simplification and translation of the standards come at a time when the ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Animal Husbandry recently closed a number of fish handling facilities over poor hygiene, leaving thousands of fishermen and fishmongers jobless.
Graham Holloway, the CSN team leader (Africa), said standards are technical, large and cumbersome documents that both the technical and fisheries officers find challenging to read and sometimes interpret.
“We visited the landing sites and asked the fish folk and some of the answers we got was that they don’t understand standards as they are complicated hence as CSN, we had to find a way of simplifying and putting them into local languages,” he said.
Holloway added; “This was a18-month pilot project …we are not providing new standards but we are encouraging Commonwealth countries to have standards that would enable them trade among themselves.”
The process involved capacity building on how standards work, laboratory management training, assisting fish folks market and set prices as well as tell them where the markets are.
Patricia Ejalu, the deputy executive director, in-charge of standards at Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS), explained that the programme was funded by the UK Department for International Development to support Ugandan and Zambian traders.
“This is part of quality standardization in the fish sector and will help fishmongers to be competitive and even make regulation is easy; people will stop looking at regulation as a punishment because they would have understood the aim,” she said.
Tom Mukata Bukenya, the acting commissioner, fisheries control, regulations, and quality assurance said the aim of translating the standards into Luganda was to make the industry more profitable and self-sustaining. He said government will not have to wait until the products reach the markets and are rejected before it acts.
“Fishing is one of the foreign export earners and we want it to be top, so all the people in the value chain should be kept up to date with the standards with the simplest language as possible,” he said.
Bukenya observed that there has been dwindling numbers of fish stocks and fish quantities at the market because of poor post-harvest handling and fishing methods hence the standards come in timely.
The fisheries industry is the second largest foreign exchange earner, contributing 2.6 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 12 per cent to agricultural GDP. Data from the directorate of fisheries resources in the ministry of Agriculture records, Uganda has a fish capture prospective of 750,000 tonnes per annum; the current production is at around 461,000 tonnes and 100,000 tonnes from aquaculture.
On the export side, fish quantity to the international market decline from 18,785 tonnes in 2015 to 16,168 tonnes in 2016, with the majority of the volumes destined to the European Union.