Addis Ababa, 10 August 2012: The Horn of Africa countries, together with the Food Agriculture Organization (FAO), Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD), New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) and the African Union Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR), have committed to building a more effective fish trade in the region. In a workshop concluded yesterday at the Food and Agriculture Organization’s Subregional Office for Eastern Africa, the experts agreed to work together in the setting up of a Fish Marketing Information Network that would help them to improve market access for fish and fish products from the region in both the domestic and international markets. “The bottom line is that industry players need to have information about the market in order to serve it well. They need information about prices paid in various markets so that fish producers, processors and traders can select the market that gives them the best return”, Dr Castro Camarada the FAO Subregional Coordinator for Eastern Africa said.
Potential to upscale
Fisheries and aquaculture sectors contribute significantly to food security, livelihoods and foreign earnings of the horn countries. However, gaps in the skills of service providers, producers and traders in fish processing, value addition and market information have been identified as the major challenges for the intraregional fish trade and it is imperative to develop their capacity in order to upscale fish trade in the horn. The experts at the meeting agreed that, there was a high potential to increasing earnings from fish and fish products if value chain operators were better trained to be more effective in their fish marketing business and indeed promote market-oriented production. “With 8 million tonnes being harvested every year in Africa, fish has become the main source of protein for a majority of the population. In addition, around 10 million people depend on fishing, fish farming, processing and trading”. Dr Dangachew Beyene - Director of Extension in the Ministry of Agriculture in Ethiopia noted.“In order to upscale the fisheries production in the horn, the market information and market analysis is crucial so as to adopt fisheries products in the best possible way for the different markets. Fisheries industry players need some assistance in facilitating trade. Again, this is a matter of information, particularly information about potential buyers”, Dr Camarada added.
Building on home-grown good practices
An electronic fish marketing system, enhancing greater market transparency through all levels of the fish value chain has been set up in Kenya. The system works primarily through the use of mobile phones and covers fish marketing information from all major water bodies in the country including coastal and aquaculture fisheries. “This has worked pretty well and we have seen fish prices from Lake Victoria - where we initiated the project - to external markets going up because people have been empowered with information. Basically the local fisher folk are now able to bargain for better prices for their fish with the profits going directly to their pockets,” explained Dr William Ojwang, the Assistant Director at the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute.Traders, fisher folk or any interested party, simply send a short message service (sms) to a predetermined short code with the name of a landing beach and retrieve information on prices and quantities of fish as well as the weather conditions or the landing area immediately. “The system in Kenya is working and the results have been seen throughout the region. After this meeting, the Horn of Africa countries now feel strongly that compared to other systems that are out there, this home-grown solution that has the best possible chance of being expanded and adapted to serve the entire subregion”, Dr Ojwang concluded. The FAO Subregional Office for Eastern Africa and IGAD are working to promote formal marketing and trade of fish and fish products from and within the Horn of Africa. Fisheries experts, relevant institutions and private sector stakeholders are being supported by this project to identify opportunities, tackle constraints and ultimately strengthen the fish trade in the Horn of Africa.