Tilapia fish

Kakamega County’s historic fish export deal to Italy set to earn Ksh539 million

By Zablon Oyugi

Kakamega County has achieved a remarkable milestone by securing a substantial deal to export no less than 10 tonnes of fish to Italy every week, making it the first among the 47 counties in Kenya to accomplish such an achievement.

The key to this success lies in the Ksh120 million Lutonyi fish processing plant, strategically located in Kakamega town, which the county administration is relying on to meet the ambitious trade target.

“To ensure a continuous production and supply of fish to the factory, we have also allocated funds in the county budget to train farmers, provide them with fingerlings and feeds, establish aggregation centers for their fish, and offer pond liners at subsidized costs, in addition to facilitating marketing,” explained Ms. Jessica Wesonga, Kakamega County’s Chief Officer for Fisheries Development.

This endeavor is expected to yield a revenue of Ksh539 million from the newfound deal.

Export certification

The county acquired export certification on July 25 this year, enabling it to commence fish exports to the European Union market. This certification followed the county’s compliance with the required standards for fish quality, warehousing, and international fish exports, as evaluated and endorsed by the Aquaculture Business Development Programme in collaboration with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

The county’s fish processing facility was ranked among Kenya’s best in terms of compliance with both local and international standards.

Resumption of operations

While Lutonyi was commissioned in 2021 by the then Devolution Cabinet Secretary, Eugene Wamalwa, internal disputes among its directors had hindered its operations. However, the county entered a Memorandum of Understanding with DAS Group Kenya Limited, the factory’s investor, which successfully resumed operations on November 3 last year.

According to Samwel Ondieki, the CEO of DAS Group, the first batch of fish will be exported next week following the renewal of the export permit by the Directorate of Fisheries.

“We are awaiting the final inspection by the Directorate of Fisheries to approve our fish export to Italy twice a week. Once approved, which is expected within two weeks, we will begin our exports as we have a ready market. Delivery is all that’s left,” Ondieki noted.

Market expansion

Ondieki also disclosed that the factory is actively expanding its international market, with Dubai, the UK, and the Netherlands as the next destinations. The fish plant has secured a ready market in these locations and is awaiting clearance from the Directorate of Fisheries, similar to the agreement already signed with Italy.

“In a week’s time, we will travel to Dubai for business engagement; there is a substantial market, and we are finalizing trade agreements regarding the quality and quantity of fish for export,” Ondieki added.

The factory has already identified 27 European countries as potential markets, in addition to its extensive domestic network, primarily serving supermarkets and Nairobi city.

“We are supplying our fish products nationwide, with major markets in supermarkets and Nairobi city. We intend to engage more fish farmers to meet the soaring demand for increased fish production,” Ondieki stated.

Production capacity

Currently, the fish factory sources its raw materials from 1,100 fish farmers in the 14 counties of the Lake Region Economic Block (LREB), benefiting 6,976 farmers from Kakamega County alone.

Presently, the factory processes 15 tonnes of fish daily, with the capacity to process and export up to 20 tonnes daily. The annual fish demand is projected to reach 7,000 tonnes.

This fish processing facility is one of four established under the 2008-2012 Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP), alongside other fish factories in Meru, Nyeri, and Migori.

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