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ADOPTING TECHNOLOGY: THE CASE OF UGANDAN FISH EXPORTS
08 July 2007
Least Developed Countries Report 2007(1)
The contents of this press release and the related Report must not be quoted or
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media before 19 July 2007, 17:00 GMT
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Exporting fish to the European Union can be highly profitable -- but it means playing by EU rules, and that can be highly challenging for least developed countries (LDCs). There is a market in Europe for Nile perch, but in 1997 the EU imposed a ban on all fresh fish imports from Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania because of what it considered poor sanitation facilities, inadequate health and environmental conditions, and a lack of basic infrastructure for processing fish. Simply put, the technology being used was rudimentary and did not meet international standards. Fish-landing sites lacked such elementary "infrastructure" as ice, potable water, adequate shelter to protect fish from contamination, electricity to run sanitation equipment, and lavatories. At factories where the fish were cleaned and filleted, sanitary, health, and environmental conditions were inadequate and layouts and structural designs were unsatisfactory.
The translation of international guidelines into good fish-handling practices proved to be difficult. The ban was lifted in 1998, but from April 1999 to October 2000 another ban was imposed on fisheries from Lake Victoria. The transformation of the Ugandan fisheries industry was spurred in part by the 1997 ban, which provided a strong incentive to introduce technological change. Joint efforts by domestic firms and the government resulted. It was clear that only those fish exporters willing and able to comply fully with international standards would have access to high-value export markets, and public agencies provided strong coordination and access to the required knowledge and technical assistance. Major efforts were made to educate businesses on sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures related to the safe processing of fish, and the government set mandatory standards and passed legislation. A key change introduced after the EU restrictions was the arrangement of processing operations to safely manage the product flow from dirtier physical areas, such as descaling, gutting and washing, towards cleaner areas such as packing. This arrangement protects cleaned items from contamination. Only three years after the imposition of the second ban, nine Ugandan operating plants had ice-making facilities, refrigeration equipment and fish-transportation trucks. Uganda´s fish exports dropped, in value terms, from $39 million in 1996 to $28 million in 1997, during the ban; rose to $34 million by 2000; and reached $86 million in 2003. Ugandan Nile perch is now sold widely in the EU and is featured at the fish counters of several major European supermarket chains.
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