Uganda earns a total of shs566b from exporting the Nile Perch fish and its products alone, according to the minister for Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, Vincent Bamulangaki Ssempijja.
Out of the $153m (about shs566b) Uganda earns from Nile perch, $52.9m (shs 195.7b) is from the fish maws (locally known as enuuni).
The minister was responding to the concerns that the fish maw business was dominated by Chinese and Indians which denies Ugandans the opportunity to earn more revenue from the highly lucrative business.
The minister explained that the fish maws are used for medical purposes including making surgical threads, anaesthetic drugs and aphrodisiac drugs.
Ssempijja also informed parliament that fish maw soups are reported to be taken by patients who have undergone surgery to quicken their recovery since they are rich in proteins and other nutrients which are believed to help in the healing of lungs and kidney.
The minister revealed that the largest trading partners in fish maws are Hong Kong and southern china where a kilogram goes for between $450 to $1,000 (about shs1.6m to shs3.7m) depending on the market rate and the quality of the product.
In Uganda, fish maws from a 70kg Nile perch fetch shs1.5m which is far higher than the cost of the fish itself which is shs700, 000.
In a report presented to parliament, Ssempijja noted that the Nile perch is the most valuable fish for Uganda since it fetches the highest amount of foreign exchange earnings.
Uganda produces about 447,000 metric tonnes of which the Nile perch contributes 86,463 metric tonnes, tilapia 49,778 metric tonnes, small pelagics, (mukene, muziri and ragoogi) contribute 260,460 metric tonnes while other species account for 50,8000 metric tonnes.
The minister noted that the financing of the fish maw dealers is mainly through interest- free cash advances from friendly Chinese.
The minister told parliament that the lack of financing and investment in the lucrative fish maw business poses a big threat to the sustainability of the Nile perch.
Ssempijja emphasised the need to streamline the fish maw processing and trade with strict control, regulation and quality assurance to ensure product quality and higher returns from the exports.
The minister told parliament that having realised that the value of the Nile perch, the ministry has embarked on its farming and breeding research.
The minister admitted that whereas the export of fish maws is dominated by Chinese and Indians, the government will undertake measures to ensure all the stakeholders in the value chain reap high benefits.