By Viscount K’Owuor
Fish from China into Kisumu.
I’m not surprised about some stale and suspicious fish coming from China into Kenya, then to of all the places Kisumu. I hear local leaders have called for a ban on such fish. Many products from China are flooding the Kenyan market, so what makes fish unique?
The proponents of such a ban are saying the imported fish threatens fish industry in Kisumu. The entire supply chain from the fishermen ,to mama samaki (female fish sellers), to the fish processing plants and their workers will lose out . Of course this makes sense. But only to a visitor in Jerusalem.
Sometime in 2009 I happened to attend a meeting with Members of Parliament drawn from the now Kisumu County : Nyakach ,Muhoroni, Nyando, Kisumu Town East, and Kisumu Town West. The only MP who was not present was Anyang Nyongo (current senator of Kisumu County) of the then Kisumu Rural. The agenda was the Economic Stimulus Package , and specifically on fish pond financing . Hon. Daima of Nyakach rose up and said, this was a ploy by Uhuru Kenyatta to empower Central province to compete with Nyanza in fish production , and therefore he was totally against the idea of government funding locals ,anywhere in the country, to construct ponds and farm fish. Fish production should be left to Lake Victoria! I’m not lying. And you know what? He got the backing of all the legislators at the meeting.
You can be sure that the opportunity was not taken up by any constituency in Luo Nyanza. And apart from Dominion farm in Siaya county, which is a private enterprise run by a foreigner ,there is no where in Luo Nyanza where fish is farmed in large scale. We are all relying on the lake, with fishermen still using the oldest and most traditional methods of fish harvesting.
As a consequence, fish is today cheaper in Nairobi than Kisumu. Personally, I rarely get to eat fish because of a prohibitive cost. Forget the matter of taste. We are talking about supply and demand , the most basic factor in any business. If there was enough supply of fish in Kisumu who would bother to buy stale and suspicious fish from China?
This Fish from China reveals a deep seated problem of attitude and habit on how we go about economic activities in Nyanza, with poverty as a big consequence.
“When a luo man has gotten an opportunity to make money by bringing in cheap fish to fish mongers and all hell has broken loose, the politicians are to blame. Yet cheap sugar comes from brazil and we consume willingly not forgetting we plant sugarcane and have lots of sugar factories. The luhyas have never complained about cheap chicken, the broilers in their market yet they have a lot of local breed chicken. If the cost of fish can’t go down in Kisumu then let consumers realize the competition,” adds Tom Oteyo
Let us continue importing fish, tomatoes, sukuma wiki, potatoes, onions and other foodstuffs from anywhere. We have so much money in Kisumu. Let some of it go to China.