Half of world fish trade sourced from developing countries
FAO meeting in Germany on international fish trade opens today
2 June 2008, Bremen, Germany/Rome - Driven by rising consumption worldwide, the international trade in fish products is expanding at a rapid pace, according to an FAO paper presented today at an intergovernmental meeting.
The value of world exports of fish and fish products grew 9.5 percent in 2006 to US$86 billion and nearly 7 percent in 2007 to US$92 billion, according to the paper, presented to 60+ countries attending the 11th session of FAO’s Sub-Committee on Fish Trade (Bremen, Germany 2-6 June 2008).
The proportion of world fish production (145 million tonnes) that is traded internationally now represents 38 percent of the total, or 55 million tonnes, the paper noted.
Developing countries have confirmed their fundamental importance as suppliers to world markets, it added, accounting for 50 percent of all fish exports. Their net export revenues from this trade have reached a record high of US$25 billion.
Imports are mostly by developed countries, now responsible for 80 percent of all imports in value terms (US$96 billion).
The big fish
China has now become the worlds largest exporter of fish (valued at US$9.7 billion), but its imports are also growing, reaching US$4.2 billion in 2007.
An overall global trend towards increased consumption of fish is largely being driven by China, where per capita consumption of fish has rocketed from less then 5 kg in the 1970s to 26kg/pc today. “In essence, much of the increase of total production of fish in the world has not only taken place in China, but has also been consumed in China,” said FAO’s report.
The increase in China’s imports is also partly a result of outsourcing, as Chinese processors bring in raw fish material from other regions, including South and North America and Europe, for reprocessing and export, FAO's paper noted.
Given these trends, China is likely to soon overtake Spain as the worlds’ largest importing country after Japan and the United States.
Japan remains the single largest importer of fish, but its imports been declining in recent years.
At the regional level, the EU is the world’s biggest market for fish, reflecting both growing domestic consumption but also its recent expansion to include 27 countries.
Excluding intraregional trade from within its own borders, the EU imported US$23 billion worth of fish and fisheries products from non-EU suppliers in 2007, an increase of 11 percent over the previous year.
A tangled web
With not only fish production but also processing and packaging increasingly spread around the world and connected via transborder supply and delivery networks, the international seafood business has become extremely complex.
Major importing countries and large international retailers have put into place increasingly stringent safety and quality standards for fish imports, but also requirements related to eco-labels that certify that fish were farmed or captured in an environmentally and socially responsible manner.
For producers in developing countries, finding the technical know-how or the financial resources required to meet such standards can pose challenges.
FAO is working to assist them with coping on a number of fronts, by helping establish technical guidelines for responsible fish trade and developing commonly accepted guidelines on certification and ecolabelling.
This week FAO’s COFI Sub-Committee on Fish Trade will discuss these and other issues. For more on the Sub-Committee, see the links at right.
Media Relations, FAO
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