The cost of fish products is expected to drop following the lifting of a four month ban on fishing on lake Kivu.
Rwanda Today has established that trade hurdles arising from continuing closure of borders will force fishmongers to reroute a huge chunk of the produce that had been crossing into Democratic Republic Congo, and serve unmet demand locally.
As the Rwanda Agriculture Board allowed fishing to resume on October 4, fishermen in Rusizi, Karongi, Rutsiro and Rubavu predicted the produce to increase to between five to seven tonnes per day, from 300 to 600 kilogrammes by the time the ban came into force.
Jean Claude Nzeyimana, head of Rusizi fishermen association said there has been a challenge of finding ready markets in the country to absorb this volume, since border closure had cut them off buyers exporting to Bukavu and further into DR Congo.
Area fishermen have been selling half of the produce to DR Congo largely through informal cross-border trade at the Bukavu and Goma border points.
Mr Nzeyimana said now the only trade arrangement possible involved sending goods to buyers across the border in case they would make digital payments upon receipt.
“That arrangement has proved not working and it’s susceptible to losses due to the lack of trust. It has not worked even for people who are dealing in other things. We chose not to count on cross border clients, for now we need to find alternative markets,” he said.
Federation of Fishery Co-operatives said there was an urgent need for co-ordination between fishermen and dealers in the products to identify new markets in Kigali and other towns.
“We urge the government help us put up collection points for the fish produce in Kigali, Muhanga and Butare and other places to facilitate distribution. It has not worked but that’s one way we thought to get the produce around in the country at a time people can no longer focus on informal cross-border trade in fish produce,” said Jean de Dieu Sinsikubwabo, head of the federation.
He indicated that the catch from lake Kivu, which accounts for over 70 per cent of domestic production, together with yield from ponds and inland lakes such as Nasho, Muhazi and Mugesera, are expected to hand local consumers cheaper and reliable fish supplies.
Fishermen said an effective supply and distribution chain will see prices for a kilogramme of the popular Isambaza which goes for Rwf1,500 at production sites could fetch between Rwf3,500 Rwf4,000 in Kigali City compared with curret Rwf7,000 to Rwf8,000.
The shortage of local fish in the market, coupled with high prices see consumers resort to relatively cheaper dried fish imported largely from Tanzania after trade with Burundi and Uganda came to a standstill.
Fishmongers have continued to stream in the market since border districts of Rubavu, Rusizi and Nyamasheke imposed restrictions on fishing on Lake Kivu in May to deal with illegal border crossing blamed for the rise in Covid-19 infections that later led to a lockdown of both Rusizi and Rubavu from the rest of the country.