A file photo of Hon Janet Okori-Moe (2nd, left) during a field visit to Dolwe Islands in Busia district
The Uganda Commercial Fish Farmers Association (UCFFA) has appealed for changes in the new Fisheries and Aquaculture Bill, 2021.
The farmers want Parliament to repeal the provision within the Bill that attaches a tax to movement of farmed fish which they said is already catered for in the fees being charged on fishing vessels.
The Bill framers, UCFFA observed, did not take into account the difference between farm fishing and fishing on lakes, which they said operate under different circumstances and thus require different legislation.
“Charging property tax on fish ponds is like charging tax on a banana plantation, ponds are like any other facility used in production, why should it attract tax?” asked UCFFA chairperson, Robert Osinde.
The UCFA was meeting the Committee on Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries on Thursday, 28 October 2021 at Parliament.
UCFFA revealed that both the local governments and the central government were replicating licenses and levies. For example, whilst operational licenses were being issued by the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, local governments were also doing the same.
The case was the same with the National Environmental Management Authority on issuance of environmental licenses, according to UCFFA.
Committee chairperson, Hon Janet Okori-Moe said the industry suffers a range of challenges in operation, budgeting and legislation. “This is the sector that has attracted many petitions on the Floor of Parliament because of management issues, even its budget is often minimal,” said Okori-Moe.
Osinde added that the unregulated and unfair taxes akin to fishing sector discourages investment and revealed that a fish farm in Mukono district which was slapped with a hefty property tax bill of Shs 600 million – the farm makes annual revenue of less than Shs 700 million.
UCFFA also wants the Bill to come out clearly on instances where the central and local government should independently levy taxes.
The commercial fish farmers said they find it unfair to be charged fees on storage, offloading and fishing ponds, and wondered why other commercial products do not attract similar charges.
Hon Abed Bwanika (NUP, Kimanya-Kabonera) re-echoed the need for the new law to relieve fish traders of excessive taxes, citing the tax on fish ponds as unnecessary and insensitive.
“They think you just throw fish in the pond and get fish like that,” Bwanika said.
Hon Julius Tusiime (Ind. Rwampara East County) was concerned about the proposal to have taxes on farmed fish different from capture fish, saying this might not be easy to legislate on. “Why should we selectively apply this law? Is it easy to differentiate fish from farms and fish from lakes in the markets?” he asked.
The committee is set to visit fish farmers to further understand differences in the legislative needs of farmed fishing and fishing in natural bodies.