Fish maw, a valuable commodity derived from the Nile Perch, is at the center of a dispute in Uganda. Fish maw traders have raised their voices against what they perceive as onerous taxes imposed by the government. They argue that these taxes are not only unfair but are also impacting their livelihoods significantly.
In a petition presented to the Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture, Animal Industry, and Fisheries, the Fish Maw and Traders Association Uganda Limited expressed their concerns about the taxation on fish maw consignments. The chairperson of the association, Justus Ssennungi, informed the Committee, chaired by Janet Grace Akech Okori-Moe, the Abim District Woman Representative, that they find the eight percent export duty per consignment and the US$11 import duty per kilogram of fish maw excessive and unjust.
These high taxes, according to Ssennungi, have led to financial hardship among association members. They further bemoaned the ongoing security brutality faced by traders on water bodies. The combination of these factors has created a challenging environment for the fish maw trade in Uganda.
Fish maw, also known as the swim bladder, is a valuable component of the Nile Perch, highly regarded for its collagen content and traditionally consumed as a health food with anti-aging properties.
The prices of fish maw have surged in the local market, with small-sized fish maw costing 160,000 Shillings per kilogram, and medium-sized maw prices ranging from 350,000 to 800,000 Shillings per kilogram.
Simon Musana, the general secretary of the association, highlighted the multiple taxes the traders are burdened with, including an annual ministry license, trading license, and health license issued by the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) before fish maw can be exported.
The Fish (Amendment) Act, 2021, Section 30(a), signed into law in February 2023, imposes an eight percent levy on the total value of exported fish maw. Fish maw traders argue that the heavy tax load has contributed to the limited availability of fish maw in the Ugandan market, compared to other East African countries. A comparative analysis reveals that Tanzania imposes a US$2.69 tax per kilogram of fish maw exported, while Kenya currently does not levy any export tax.
In response to these challenges, the aggrieved fish maw traders are urging the Parliament to amend the law, reducing the tax levy from US$11 to US$2 per kilogram and requesting a reasonable reduction in the six percent withholding tax.
Dr. Abed Bwanika, the Shadow Minister of Agriculture and MP for Kimaanya-Kabonera Division in Masaka City, encouraged the fish maw traders to provide additional information concerning the fish maw business’s changing dynamics, including data on fish maw value and export receipts. This information is seen as crucial for a comprehensive review of their petition.
In the meantime, the Committee Chairperson has announced that they will conduct an expedited oversight visit to various landing sites. This visit aims to provide an opportunity for the Committee to engage directly with affected traders, fostering a better understanding of their concerns and ultimately working towards resolutions for the issues outlined in the petition.