The government says it produces some 336,821,084 kilos of fish annually (roughly 336,821 tonnes), while the country’s total demand is 730,000 tonnes.
The permanent secretary in the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries Development, Dr Yohana Budeba, told The Citizen in an email response that, as a result, Tanzania faces a deficit of 480,886,751 kilos (480,886 tonnes), equivalent to an annual deficit of 10.70 kilos of fish per person!
“We need to increase production of tilapia and other kinds of fish to meet the domestic demand, as well as for export to international markets,” Dr Budeba said.
As it is, Tanzania imports tilapia from far-off China and next-door Mozambique in efforts to stem off the shortage of fish protein in the human diet.
“Fish as a food contributes around 30 per cent of all animal protein. We have a deficit of almost 50 per cent of fish,” he said.
Explaining why the country has to import fish, he said the current per capita consumption is only 7.5 kilos per year, while the FAO-recommended annual fish consumption per person is 18.2 kilos. According to Dr Budeba, Tanzania benefits in different ways from importation of fish, as thisboosts government revenues in the forms of import royalties and licensing, as well as filling the 50 percent fish deficit gap.
He revealed that exporting tilapia from natural waters in Tanzania is not allowed, and is solely for domestic consumption. This is in accordance with the Fisheries Act (No. 22 of 2003 of the Laws of Tanzania) and the Fisheries Regulations of 2009.
However, tilapia from private fish farmers – ‘farmed tilapia’ – may be exported.
But then, production of farmed tilapia is still very low – and, as such, is all consumed within the country.
It is estimated that Tanzania produces some 11,000 metric tons of tilapia fish a year.
In the event, the fisheries perm-sec is of the view that importing tilapia fish – especially of the farmed variety – cannot be good for the country’s economy and aquatic environment.
This is because such imports can transmit fish-borne viruses and bacteria which cause fish diseases.
In any case, the Tanzanian economy requires that we import less and export more.