In June, Kenya successfully sent its inaugural shipment of anchovies, locally known as ‘omena,’ to China, thanks to a bilateral agreement inked between the two nations in January 2022. According to Wu Peng, who heads the Department of African Affairs at the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, this 52-tonne delivery of omena is part of a mutually beneficial agreement.
Peng stated, “We are pleased to announce the recent successful delivery of the first 52-tonne shipment of Kenyan omena to China. More shipments are in the pipeline. The FOCAC #Green Channel for African agricultural exports to China is yielding tangible advantages for both African and Chinese communities.”
This initial batch of Kenyan wild anchovy products made their debut at the third China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo in late June. This development marks China’s commitment to promote the import of high-quality African food and agricultural products, enhance choices for Chinese consumers, and boost trade ties between China and Africa.
The shipment was managed by Huawen Food, a local Kenyan subsidiary of the Jinzai Food Group, and it is destined for the Chinese snack market. The company operates in Kwale, Kenya, on the country’s coastline, relying on numerous local fishermen to supply their processing plant with locally caught ‘omena’ for drying and packaging.
Anchovies, despite their small size, possess a distinctive and intense fishy and salty flavor that can be overpowering when not prepared correctly. In Kenya, they are typically served with local staples such as ugali and greens. They are now poised to become a lucrative commodity for the Kenyan fishing sector, as stated by Liu Zhiyong, the managing director of Huawen Food, who highlighted the high-profit potential of the company’s Kenyan operation.
In China, anchovies find their way into various dishes, from stir-fries and street snacks to salads and substantial meals like anchovy fried rice. Gastronomes are captivated by anchovies due to their unique flavor, often described as “umami,” an elusive fifth taste that enhances the overall dining experience beyond the traditional salty, sweet, sour, and bitter sensations.