KABANDA CHULU, Lusaka
GOVERNMENT has been urged to suspend importation of fish from Asia where the tilapia lake virus disease has broken out and is affecting consumers and the productivity of the fish farming sub-sector.
Aquaculture Development of Zambia (ADAZ) trustee Fisho Mwale said Government should also start issuing health certificates prior to imports.
Mr Mwale said there is need to intensify health inspections of all imported fish if the country is to avoid having ‘discarded’ fish from Asia that is bad for consumption.
He called for the increased awareness by border staff of the mislabelling of Asian tilapia as Namibian Mackerel aimed at avoiding paying the normal tax duties.
Mr Mwale said the outbreak of the tilapia lake virus poses a threat to Zambia’s growing aquaculture sector.
“This is a new disease that has spread quickly internationally and for which there is no known cure. It has wreaked havoc on many Asian tilapia markets. Leading experts do not yet know if the virus can travel by frozen fish.
“We propose that until further research is conducted, imports or frozen fish, live fish and fish eggs from the affected countries are banned to Zambia, to protect our fish stocks and fish farmers,” he said during a symposium for ADAZ members last week.
Mr Mwale said it is difficult for Zambian farms to compete with unfair competition from imported fish which are often a health hazard.
“We are not advocating a total ban on imports since Zambian fish farmers can and should compete in an open market. But we are requesting a level playing field.
“Some imported tilapia suffers from problems such as the small fish that are imported to Zambia are often the mortalities from Asian farming.
“These fish are not fit for consumption in other markets and so are dumped in Africa at low prices. This is not safe for human consumption and preys on low income consumers. Also imported fish is often advertised as being Zambian,” he said.