Fish maw traders have petitioned the Committee on Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries over what they have termed as "excessive taxes."
Specifically, the traders are protesting the eight percent export duty charged on each consignment of fish maw and US$11 of import duty imposed on every kilogramme of fish maw.
The traders are also uncomfortable with the six percent withholding tax levied on each sale of fish maw. They also complained about continued brutality on water bodies by security personnel.
While presenting their petition on Tuesday, 31 October 2023, the fish maw traders under their umbrella- the Fish Maw and Traders Association Uganda Limited, aver that the excessive taxes have forced them out of the business.
“Initially, our association had more than 50 members who are representing companies, but due to unfavourable government policies, the number has dropped to 30,” Justus Ssennungi, the chairperson of the association said. Ssennungi said that the deep in numbers has also resulted in a proportional drop in tax revenue.
The fish maw traders decried a plethora of taxes levied on them from the time of fishing, processing and exporting, saying it is “unfair, unrealistic and excessive.”
“Before fish maw is taken to a level of export, there are lots of taxes charged. You cannot move fish maw in any vehicle which is not licenced. We pay annual licence to the ministry, trading licence, and health licence to KCCA, and many others,” Simon Musana, the association’s general secretary said.
Musana said that the heavy tax burden explains the low fish maw stock on the Ugandan market compared to other East African countries.
“We have done comparative analysis and you realise Tanzania charges US$2.69 on each kilogramme of fish maw exported, while in Kenya, there is no tax imposed on export…It is our prayer that export tax is reduced to US$ 2.5 per kilogramme,” Musana said. He also proposed that import duty be reduced from US$ 11 to US$ 2 per kilogramme and the six percent withholding tax should also be reduced to “a manageable level.”
Section 30 (a) of the Fish (Amendment) Act, 2021 imposes a levy on fish maw at the rate of eight percent of the total value of fish maw which is exported. It is also the plea of the fish maw traders to harmonise the taxation system, and formulate clear trade treaties and protocols with other trading partners in East Africa.
Hon. Janet Okori-Moe, the committee chairperson said some of the challenges faced by fishermen emanate from non-implementation of the Fisheries and Aquaculture Act, 2022. “As a committee, we are planning to do oversight visits to some of the landing sites to confirm the efficiencies of the new Act. But also, we need to follow up on some of the specific regulations that the minister needed to bring to Parliament,” Okori-Moe said.
Hon. Susan Mugabi (Buvuma District Woman Representative) called for the expedition of the petition and to ensure that regulations on the Fisheries Act are put into place and implemented urgently.
“Fishing is an expensive business and there is need to sympathise with the fishermen…In my constituency, movement permits are issued on every island that fishermen go to and there is uncertainty on the fees they pay,” Mugabi said.
Hon. Abed Bwanika (Kimaanya-Kabonera Division), who is also the Shadow Minister of Agriculture urged the fish maw traders to furnish the committee with more information regarding the trends in fish maw business in terms of quantity, export receipts, taxation, value of fish maw, to help them process the petition.