Fresh data compiled by the state Department of Fisheries indicates Kenya shipped in 22,362 tonnes of fish mainly from China, up from 19,127 tonnes worth Sh 1.5 billion that was imported in 2017.
The value of fish have been increasing steadily in the past four years as a result of cheaper supplies from China.
Earlier this year,The National Treasury defended the importation of fish from China for local consumption, saying the Kenyan fishing industry does not produce enough to satisfy demand.
The Treasury said local production does not meet demand in the Kenyan market, hence the need to import from China and other markets. Kenya exports high quality fish that fetches top dollar mostly in European markets, while importing cheap fish to bridge the balance between demand and production.
It was explained that the local production of about 135,100 metric tonnes of fish does not meet the current domestic demand of 500,000 metric tonnes, and that on the same matter, strategically, Kenya exports premium fish and imports cheaper fish for the benefit of the consumer,” says the Treasury.
Lorries from Mombasa offload frozen tilapia every morning even before local fishermen return from the lake with their small catch, sometimes with empty nets.A biting shortage of home grown fish from the lake has created a gap now filled by a multi-billion-shilling market for the China-bred fish.
There have been health concerns over the Chines imports, with a joint research between The East African news paper and The University of Nairobi (UoN) showing traces of toxic metal in fish.
The tests revealed that the commodity had traces of lead, mercury, copper and arsenic, though in the levels termed permissible by the World Health organisation standards.
Even if your stock is from Lake Victoria, It is still very hard to convince the buyers because the market is flooded with imports, everyone thinks all sellers selling frozen fish from China.
Fisheries and traders now want the government to find a lasting solution to the problem.