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Kampala’s Craze For Fish

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Uganda Fish

Kasenyi landing site is probably Uganda’s biggest and busiest source of fish. Kampala’s fish mostly comes from here. It is busiest on Monday’s and Friday’s, which is when the fishing site has its market days. Kasenyi, however, is not in Kampala.

Kampala’s history with consuming fish is long. Fish has been a favourite delicacy in Uganda, especially near the water sources. Fish is a major element in most restaurant menus and in Ugandan homes. In terms of commercial goods, it has been a huge player for ages.

There was a time, in the 80s and early 90s, when consumption seemingly reached a peak in Kampala. This was after the introduction of ‘take-away’ and roadside roasters. Fish and chips were so popular with the customers, the prices showed what the public thought of it. The most expensive item in the restaurants was always fish and chips.

Then the 1994 tragedy in Rwanda happened and the fish market was hit in Kampala. The problem stemmed from the belief that most of the fish that was being brought to Kampala had been feasting on the bodies floating in the River Nile from Rwanda.

The fears were irrational but the consumption of fish went drastically down. This, fortunately, did not persist for long. After some time, demand started rising and today, fish and chips is one of the most sought after item. The prices have followed the demand.

Many people in Kampala get their fish from their local market. There is normally a fish section in all Kampala’s markets and business is brisk. Fish can be found on most days, especially in the morning. Fresh fish is naturally what most people would want to go for, given the short period in which the commodity can be consumable.

Some of Kampala’s best fish will be found in Ggaba, where a vibrant fish landing site exists, or in Nakawa, where it will be ferried in the morning from Ggaba, or at the Nakasero Market in the centre of the city.

Companies like Ngege Limited located in Luzira and Nile Fishing Company cater for the up-market clientele of people. Those who are not so comfortable with going downtown to rub shoulders with the mongers. Here, the fish is found pre-packed and ready to be cooked.

In the market, however, it is a usual sight to find housewives bending and checking the quality of the products before they stuff them into their bags. The fish markets are milling with shoppers and noisy mongers, each trying to attract as many buyers as possible. The situation should not be seen as bedlam, though.

The process usually involves a customer haggling with the seller over the price of a particular fish. Prices range from 7,000 UGX for the small ones to about 10,000 UGX for medium sized and 15,000 UGX for the large ones. In some places, fish prices could go as high as 30,000 UGX. A rare breed like catfish costs between 20,000 UGX and 70,000 UGX.

Some of the most popular fish types in Kampala include tilapia, the Nile perch and clarias. Some homes in Kampala consume fish at least once a week. There is a growing demand for maws, which originally were consumed by a fringe clientele. And there’s good news! Consuming fish is actually incredibly healthy. The omega-3 oils in fish are helpful for both the heart and the brain. Not to mention it’s renowned in creating shiny hair and nails.

To get to the central market of Nakasero, all you have to do board a taxi from wherever you are to town. The market is located adjacent to the Tourist Hotel at the intersection of Luwum Street and Dastur Street. On any given day, the fish will be there, waiting for you and your appetite.

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