By Macrines Nyapendi
THREE fish exporting companies have suspended operations due to high production costs caused by the post-election violence in Kenya. The plants are Oakwood based at Kansensero landing site, Wild Catches in Butiaba, Lake Albert and Marine and Agro.
â€œSkyrocketing fuel prices and lack of packaging materials has forced us to temporarily close down. If the violence in Kenya continues, all processors will halt operations,â€ a source said.
Solid packaging boxes imported from South Africa, which come into the country by road through Kenya, have not arrived.
Dick Nyeko, the commissioner for fisheries, said the processors who suspended operations use generators because they are not connected to the main power grid.
He added: â€œBut even those who are connected to the main power grid may be affected by the surging prices of the Nile Perch at the landing sites and the depreciating dollar.â€
â€œThe fuel crisis has severely affected fish exports because boats fishing Nile Perch use petrol engines. Nile Perch prices at the landing sites have been rising by 10% daily,â€ Nyeko said.
A kilogramme of Nile Perch at the landing sites was at sh3500 before the crisis.
Hundreds of fishermen in Butiaba and Kasensero landing sites are stuck with fish.
â€œThe situation is getting worse by the day. Our main buyers have stopped us from supplying them, yet the other processors are in Kampala. We cannot take fish to Kampala plants because we donâ€™t have contracts with them,â€ a fisherman in Butiaba said.
Fish export earnings stand at over $150m (sh255b) annually with fish being the second largest forex earner after coffee.
Nyeko said the violence in Kenya is a blessing to the lakeâ€™s ecosystem.
â€œThe pressure mounted on the Nile Perch species has reduced. This will help regeneration of stocks,â€ he explained.
Last week, the processors and the fisheries department officials had a meeting to plan how they could avert the crisis.