Surge in Tuna could be a Threat to Local Fish Business in Kisumu County

By Treezer Michelle Atieno

Since September 2023, Kisumu County, a fishing city renowned for its tilapia and Nile perch, has experienced a surge in the supply of Tuna fish which is popular in the coastal region. Traders and buyers have shifted their focus towards tuna due to its lower cost compared to the local fish varieties found in Kisumu.

To gain insights into the impact of the high supply of Tuna fish on Kisumu’s fish business, I spoke with two traders, Samuel Ochieng and Jane Mapesa.

Samuel, a local fish trader, expressed his thoughts on this development: “The availability of cheaper tuna from the coast has affected our business significantly. Many customers are now opting for tuna over locally caught tilapia and Nile perch due to its affordability. As a result, we are witnessing a decline in demand for our local fish.”

According to Jane, another trader specializing in Nile perch, shared her concerns: “It is challenging for us to compete with the lower prices offered by tuna. We used to have a loyal customer base for our Nile perch, but now they are turning towards tuna as it fits their budget better. This shift has impacted our sales and profitability.” Jane says that if this trend continues, she may have to start selling tuna fish in order to remain in business.

While local fish traders may be affected by tuna, some fish consumers are probably enjoying the new development in the fish industry in Kisumu. Tuna is offering increased variety in the market and diversity to the options available to consumers in Kisumu. The affordability of tuna is also allowing consumers with limited budgets to access fish protein, which is essential for their nutrition.

However, The shift in consumer preference towards cheaper tuna may result in a decline in demand for locally caught fish varieties like tilapia and Nile perch. This decline could lead to financial losses for traders specializing in these fish species. Kisumu’s local fish industry might experience a decrease in revenue and profitability due to the reduced demand for local fish. This could potentially affect employment opportunities and income generation within the sector.

John Muga, a fish consumer from Obunga in Kisumu expressed his satisfaction with the increased availability of tuna: “I used to struggle to afford fish regularly, but now with the cheaper tuna, I can enjoy it more frequently. It has made a positive impact on my family’s diet.”

Mary Okeyo, another consumer highlighted a concern: “While I appreciate the lower prices of tuna, I still prefer the taste and quality of locally caught tilapia. I hope that there will continue to be a market for our local fish despite the competition.”

This year, Kisumu County has been involved in supporting aquaculture projects to increase fish supply. While tuna provides consumers with a more affordable option and diversifies their choices, it poses a threat to traders specializing in local fish varieties such as tilapia and Nile perch. Striking a balance between catering to budget-conscious consumers and supporting local fishermen will be crucial for sustaining Kisumu’s fish industry.

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