Kisumu county has a deficit of 4,000 tonnes of fish which can only be met by importing from neighbouring counties or other countries.
A report on the Importation of Fish from China by the Assembly Fisheries Committee states that imported fish from China has helped bridge the supply gap.
The committee chaired by Fanuel Aim found that fish from China has been entering the county since 2012 and has been imported through the Mombasa port by three companies.
After importation, the fish is widely sold in Mombasa, Nairobi and other urban areas.
Aim said this is because the production of fish in Lake Victoria has been dwindling from the peak of 5,000 tonnes per annum in the year 2000 to current production of 2,600 tonnes per annum.
He said during this period, the population of the county has led to increased demand for fish. The committee, however, noted that out of the 2,381 tonnes that have been imported from China so far, only about 100 tonnes have entered Kisumu county.
“The county exports to China frozen Nile Perch fillets and fish maws every year of higher value than what it imports. Last year 100 tonnes worth Sh140 million were exported to China,” Aim said.
A few months ago, there was uproar from residents and leaders who called for the ban of fish from China.
Residents accused the East Africa Sea Food Company of transporting and distributing the imported fish to Kisumu.
“Since the county does not have adequate storage facilities, East Africa Sea Food Company assists traders by transporting the same commodity using refrigerated vehicles to maintain its recommended market quality on arrival to the market,” Aim said.
The county Fisheries department told the committee in a letter that earlier, traders used to travel to Mombasa and transport the fish by public service vehicles to Kisumu but it would spoil by the time it reaches the county.
The department said five months ago the company’s Kisumu branch decided to help the traders by transporting the same fish using a refrigerated vehicle.
The department said if the county stopped direct entry of this imported fish, it will still enter in disguise through the surrounding counties and also Uganda.
“Once it has been removed from the package, it may not be easy to know the difference between imported Tilapia and the locally produced ones,” a letter attached to the report says.
The 15-member committee said the quality of the imported fish is checked by the Kenya Bureau of Standards at the point of entry and pre-quality checks are also done at the country of origin.
Kisumu North MCA Caroline Owen questioned how sure the committee members are that the laboratory results were not doctored to favour the importers. She wants fish imports stopped.