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Although capture fisheries currently provide most of the aquatic production for human consumption, aquaculture will become more important as capture fisheries decline or stabilize. World fish production from all sources in 1999 was 137 million t, including 43 million t from aquaculture and 94 million t from capture fisheries. Aquaculture production more than doubled between 1990 and 1999 (from 16.8 million t in 1990 to 42.8 million t in 1999; FAO 2000a), while capture fisheries production increased only marginally (from 86.8 million t in 1990 to 94.1 million t in 1999; FAO 2000a). Aquaculture has become the world's fastest growing food-producing sector, with a growth rate of 10% annually since 1984. Asia produces about 91% of the world's total aquaculture production, with China, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand as top producers within Asia.

Freshwater aquaculture is a major source of growth not only for aquaculture but also for the whole Asian fishery sector. Asian countries are the major suppliers of freshwater aquaculture products (Table 1). World production of freshwater fish from aquaculture was 19 390 284 t in 1999 with China contributing about 73% of this. Other major contributors from Asia during this period are India (9.90%), Bangladesh (2.60%), Viet Nam (2.10%), Indonesia (1.49%), Thailand (1.32%) and the Philippines (0.50%). It is worth noting that while the contributions of Bangladesh, China and Viet Nam to world freshwater fish production are increasing, contributions from India, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand are gradually declining. As far as annual growth rate of freshwater aquaculture fish production is concerned, Viet Nam achieved the highest annual growth rate (15.97%) followed by China (13.86%), Bangladesh (11.70%), Thailand (10.85%), and Indonesia (4.70%) during the 1989-99 period. In the Philippines, the sector achieved a very negligible annual growth rate (1.18%) during this period.

Freshwater aquaculture benefits poor rural communities in many developing countries, enhancing food security and improving the livelihoods of poor people. It is against this background that a study dealing with the production, accessibility, marketing and consumption patterns of freshwater aquaculture products in Asia is both timely and important.

The broad objective of the present study is to examine production, accessibility, marketing and consumption patterns of aquaculture products, with emphasis on freshwater aquaculture, in Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam. Specifically, the study addresses the issues of production, accessibility, consumption, marketing and demand for freshwater aquaculture products to determine the requisites for sustainable and equitable development of the industry in Asia.

The study is organized in seven sections. Following the introduction, the second section gives a brief overview of the data and methodology used in this study. Section three reviews the fisheries sector and trends of freshwater production, the contribution of aquaculture and fishery in general to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and some country-specific development policies are briefly discussed. These policies often influence markets and access, export earnings, local consumption and priority policy action for the development of the industry. The fourth section is a brief discussion on the socio-economics of fish producers, including an overview of modes of operation, production systems, farm ownership, farm sizes, species composition, inputs used, productivity and profitability. The fifth section presents and discusses fish consumption pattern and preferences, levels and trends of fish food protein intake in relation to other protein sources, and price and income elasticities. This is followed by an overview of fish marketing, the role of credit, retailing practices and constraints to access to credit in the sixth section. The final section is a summary and conclusion, with recommendations on realizing the potential of the freshwater aquaculture sector in Asia.

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