Press Release 98/38
WORLD FISH TRADE: CHANGES IN QUALITY CONTROL REPRESENT NEW CHALLENGE FOR DEVELOPING COUNTRIES, FAO SAYS; GLOBAL FISH BUSINESS IS ESTIMATED AT MORE THAN US$250 BILLION
Rome/Bremen, 2 June 1998.- Recent changes in quality control measures on fishery products introduced by the main importing countries represent a new challenge for the developing world and require major investment, according to a study by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
The FAO study was prepared for the meeting of the Sub-Committee on Fish Trade in Bremen, Germany, 3-6 June, when major issues of international trade in fishery products will be discussed by delegates from around 60 countries and representatives from Intergovernmental Organizations (WTO, OECD among others) and NGOs, including WWF and Greenpeace. On the agenda of the meeting of this sub-committee of FAO's Committee on Fisheries (COFI): recent quality control measures in the main importing countries; resource overexploitation; and environmental concerns.
The study recalled that in August 1997, the European Community stopped imports of seafood from India, Bangladesh and Madagascar. In December 1997, there was a decision to prohibit the import of fresh seafood from Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique and Uganda
"The impact of these measures was severe in the seafood industry of the exporting countries, creating loss of employment and foreign exchange earnings of several hundreds of million of US dollars," FAO report underlined.
"The investments needed to bring a fish processing plant up to the new standards are substantial, and many companies feel that the implementation of the new regulations on fishery products is de facto a non-tariff measure against value-added products originating from developing countries," according to FAO.
Another obstacle to trade could be created by ecolabelling, i.e. certification that the fish was produced from a sustainably managed resource. "There is a danger that small-scale fishermen in the developing countries may be disadvantaged by difficulties to certify their fish production," FAO fisheries expert Erhard Ruckes said.
"Fish is the most important food product exported by developing countries. It comes well before coffee, banana and tea," according to Ruckes.
"For many developing countries, fish trade is a significant source of foreign currency earnings. Net-exports by these countries rose from US$5.2 billion in 1985 to US$17.2 billion in 1996," Ruckes added.
Developed countries account for more than 80 percent of total imports of fishery products. Japan is the biggest importer, followed by the United States and the European Community.
"In 1996, world fish production including aquaculture, totalled 121 million tons representing a value of well over US$120 billion. Taking into account trade or value-addition on the way to the consumer, global fish business is estimated at more than US$250 billion," Ruckes underlined.
The Bremen meeting will also discuss trends in the exploitation of fishery resources and their implications for trade as well as recent international initiatives regarding fisheries management.
It has been estimated that in 1994 about 35 percent of the 200 major marine fishery resources showed declining yields, 25 percent had a stable exploitation at a high level and 40 percent yields were still increasing. "The potential for further expansion of theses resources is strictly limited, despite the expansion of some fisheries into deeper waters," according to FAO.
"Several countries have expressed the wish to see FAO play a stronger role in the elaboration of the criteria for listing species in the frame of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)," FAO expert said. CITES underlines that when a species is endangered to a point close to extinction, international trade may be prohibited or submitted to stringent control measures. Last June, all sturgeon species were listed in an appendix of the Convention. The major consequence was the regulation of international trade in caviar.
FAO has developed a project for the establishment of FIGIS (Fisheries Global Information System) which will initially concentrate on information and analysis of the biological status of aquatic resources. In a later stage, it will include pertinent trade information such as products, prices, market trends, countries of origin and destination.
At Bremen, FAO will also review its cooperation with the Common Fund for Commodities aimed at helping small-scale fish producers in developing countries.