Photo: A fish stall at the market centre in Bor, March 7, 2017. (© Radio Tamazuj)

Jonglei fishermen ‘concerned’ about inadequate storage facilities

Fishermen in Jonglei State, particularly in Bor, are expressing their concerns about the inadequate storage facilities at the port, leading to the spoilage of their catch. The fishermen are urgently appealing for the establishment of cold storage facilities to preserve their fish and facilitate access to markets.

Fishermen in Jonglei State, particularly in Bor, are expressing their concerns about the inadequate storage facilities at the port, leading to the spoilage of their catch. The fishermen are urgently appealing for the establishment of cold storage facilities to preserve their fish and facilitate access to markets.

The primary issues highlighted by the fishermen include the absence of essential storage facilities like refrigerators and reliable power supply to maintain optimal temperatures and prevent the perishability of their catch.

Speaking to Radio Tamazuj, Martha Majok, a fish dealer from Juba, emphasized the critical role of proper storage in addressing the challenges faced by the fisheries sector in Bor town.

She stated, “Especially during rainy periods, you can observe the significant challenges they face in finding suitable places and shelter. For example, we urgently need a spacious storage facility where they can store their fish. This would ensure that the fish remains dry and in good condition, preventing it from getting wet.”

“This is a lucrative business, and as responsible corporate entities, we must actively participate in enhancing the area for the benefit of our people,” she emphasized.

Additionally, she underscored the necessity for improved infrastructure to support the sector’s growth and expansion. She highlighted the current pricing dynamics, stating, “We purchase fish in bundles (three pieces) at 5,500 SSP, but when selling it in Juba, it is priced by the kilogram, ranging from 2,000 to 3,000 SSP per kilogram.”

The fishery sector in Jonglei, one of the states in South Sudan, serves as a vital player in the national economy’s transformation. Beyond providing employment, generating exports, and contributing to tax revenues, it has sparked an economic boom in the region, with fishermen now earning $200,000 monthly from fish sales.

Furthermore, the small-scale sector has emerged as a critical component for ensuring food security and reducing poverty in a region grappling with the aftermath of floods over the past three years.

Kulang Ayat, a fish dealer in Bor town, is urging the government to establish a dedicated fish market. Expressing the community’s needs, Ayat stated, “What we require from the government is the creation of a market where we can sell our fish, benefiting us in the process.” He highlighted the potential income, mentioning, “We can earn SSP 4,000 per piece of catfish, but with government support in providing tools, we could catch and sell fish at even better prices.”

“I am currently able to pay my children’s school fees, support my own education, and take care of my family,” he added.

Detailing the cost dynamics, Ayat mentioned, “I purchase big fish at SSP 1,700, small ones at SSP 500, and Tilapia at SSP 150, in addition to the cost of salt.” He pointed out the rising expense of salt and appealed to the government for assistance in reducing its market price.

Majur Jongkuch, the Acting Chairperson of the Jonglei Fishing Trader’s Union, highlighted the positive impact of the fish industry on employment in Jonglei State.

He further explained, “The youth are busy in Toch catching the fish and transporting them to Bor, from where they are exported to Uganda and DR Congo.”

However, Jongkuch raised concerns about what he deemed ‘exorbitant’ taxes imposed by local authorities within the country, expressing how these taxes are negatively impacting their business. He mentioned, “The government is benefiting from this fishing activity. They tax boats that bring the fish from Toch and also receive something from the bundles of fish at the port.”

In addition, Jongkuch accused Ugandan authorities of imposing high import duties, despite South Sudan being a part of the East African Community (EAC). He lamented, “Our exports are being overtaxed, even though exports are not taxed within the country. They are taxed in the country where they are supposed to be sold.”

Emphasizing the intricate logistics of the process, Jongkuch detailed a weekly trip covering approximately 295km. This journey originates from Juba City in South Sudan and extends to Arua City in Uganda and the DR Congo. In these destinations, residents relish South Sudanese fish, while traders purchase large quantities for subsequent resale.

“We can produce 50 or 80 bundles of fish in a week, and sometimes two or three trucks leave within a week. Each truck may be loaded with 40, 50, or 80 bundles of fish,” Jongkuch noted.

Daniel Panthar, the tax collector for Bor County, shared that he collects SSP 50,000 per day in taxes from fishermen, and these funds are deposited into the county’s account.

On a broader scale, Onyoti Adigo Nyikwec, the national minister for Livestock and Fisheries, highlighted the challenges faced by the country in fully harnessing its extensive fishing sector. Speaking at the conclusion of the symposium on enhancing the blue economy organized by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in South Sudan’s capital, Juba, Nyikwec pointed out the hindrance posed by a lack of developed technology and infrastructure.

Addressing the issue, Nyikwec stated, “Fish landing sites all over South Sudan are not developed, and this remains a challenge in the fisheries sector, impacting the entire food value chain. It calls for collective intervention to address this concern.”

Nyikwec emphasized that an estimated 1.7 million people in South Sudan directly rely on the emerging fisheries sector for their livelihoods, food, and nutritional security.

South Sudan has fish in abundance. The country’s water is home to a wide range of fish, including the popular Nile Perch, Tilapia, the Cat- and Mudfish.

However, fishing is not as widespread as it could be, as many communities focus on their cattle while fishing is often disparaged.

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