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1.1 Scope and Purpose of the Paper

This Technical Paper is addressed primarily to those concerned with the planning, development and administration of urban fish marketing operations and its supporting infrastructure in Southeast Asia. It may be useful to those concerned with fish marketing systems such as itinerant vending and formal and informal street markets; in particular, urban fish distribution and marketing and development of consumer demand for fish and fishery products. It may also be found useful by persons involved in the planning, development and expansion of the retail trade of fresh fish in municipal governments, as well as those engaged with the design of trade policies, legislation and administration.

Urban marketing of live and fresh fish, as well as some examples of low-cost fish retailing equipment and facilities used in four large urban centres of Southeast Asia (Manila, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Bangkok) are described as case studies. In addition, some considerations regarding the design and operations of low-cost fish retailing equipment used in fresh and live fish trade are outlined.

1.2 Products Covered

For the purposes of this study, the main products considered were live and fresh fish and shellfish. Fresh fish and shellfish are defined as products that have not been subjected to any process of preservation, except chilling, which reduces temperatures close to the temperature of melting ice (0°C).

Fresh fish was marketed in diverse forms according to consumer preferences, such as:

Shellfish consisted of molluscs and crustaceans as well as cephalopods, which are frequently marketed as:

In addition, for the benefit of those concerned with planning and investment in retail equipment for perishable fishery products, a brief description of low-cost equipment for street vending of ready-to-eat fish balls, squid balls and fish sausages is included.

1.3 Methodology

The main research objective was to collect information on low-cost retailing equipment and facilities suitable for fish marketing in large urban areas of Southeast Asia, as well as current legislation and improvement programmes for street vending operations. Figure 1 illustrates the steps involved in this marketing research process. In Southeast Asia, the main urban centres have grown at an accelerated rate. The development of informal street food market outlets is due to several factors, such as the lack of an adequate number of other food market outlets, unemployment, and socio-economic conditions of the urban population as well as influx of rural residents into main cities. Street fish vending supplies fish to low-income earners and is a source of income for many others, including women, who otherwise would be unemployed.

Where possible, secondary data compiled by national statistics agencies and FAO sources is used. Primarily, however, this paper relies heavily on information gathered on a firsthand basis through market surveys and interviews with street seafood vendors, public market seafood retailers, super-market staff, officials from national fish marketing agencies and local governments, and visits to wholesale and retail markets in Manila, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok. In addition, INFOFISH, MFRD/SEAFDEC and the FAO Representative office in the Philippines provided data and liaison with local counterpart institutions.

Table 1: Counterpart Institutions, by Country


Counterpart Institutions


Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR)

Philippines Fisheries Development Authority (PFDA)


Fisheries Development Authority of Malaysia (LKIM)



Marine Fisheries Research Department (MFRD), SEAFDEC

Primary Production Department, Ministry of National Development


Department of Fisheries (DOF), Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives

It is important to note that fish prices, like those of other commodities, are subject to fluctuation. The prices found in this study were current at the time of the market surveys.

1.3.1 Primary and Secondary Data Collection

Table 2 shows the schedule of field work; the surveys were conducted from 13th February to 7th March 2000. Of the 165 respondents interviewed during the surveys, about 68 percent were either street vendors, retailers or wholesalers/traders and 32 percent were national government officials, local government officials and consumers at street fish markets.

Table 2: Schedule of Field Work


Starting Date

Completion Date




Kuala Lumpur









On the field and before the start of the surveys and interviews, a certain amount of preparatory work was required to co-ordinate with national counterparts including the preparation of a detailed schedule of visits and interviews planned. Questionnaires were e-mailed to counterpart agencies in advance, to be distributed particularly to personnel with access to data, regarding training programmes, national legislation and improvement programmes related to urban street fish vending and infrastructure. In most instances, background data on fish marketing, street vending operations and street ready-to-eat food vending was collected from various sources. Compilation, assembly and analysis of these background data in most cases was of particular importance to reveal the most conspicuous gaps in information and to identify areas which needed particular attention.

Among the essential requisites in the preparation of the field surveys were the collection of detailed and reliable city maps. In addition, all survey questionnaires (4) were prepared in advance, tested and modified accordingly. Weights, currencies and measures actually used in each city were employed and care was taken that the unit used was clearly indicated on the questionnaires. Most questionnaires were, as a rule, completed by the person conducting the interview in the local language or in English, and at the end of the day, were translated when required. Questionnaires used in connection with background data were filled out by responsible officials from local governments or concerned agencies during the survey work and later checked by the interviewer. In some cases, the interviewer collected the questionnaires at a later date and checked the information with the responsible officer to clear up doubtful points. Fundamentally, purposive/judgement sampling (based on the researcher’s judgement, to select population members who are good prospects for accurate information) was used in the selection of fish vendors for interviews, in accordance with the enumerator’s experience and knowledge of the local behaviour as well as the availability of time. The survey teams aimed at obtaining specific information on improved fish retailing equipment and facilities, modus operandi of street fish vendors, operational costs and fish prices; therefore, in most cases, street fish markets were chosen intentionally according to the needs of the study. The number of fish vendors interviewed varied from location to location, but represented about 10-20 percent of the total street fish vendors in each site and provided a representative sample of the various types of stalls/equipment available and fish and fishery products offered. The time schedule for collection of primary data was set up so as to coincide with the street fish vendors’ working hours at the marketplace.

It was important for interviewers to make a good presentation to avoid creating a doubt in the respondent’s mind as to the confidential nature of the survey. In order to avoid answers that came about as a result of the respondent wishing to mislead the interviewer, several fish vendors operating in the same marketplace and offering the same type of products were interviewed. Where the interviewer suspected that he/she was given misleading answers, he noted this under “remarks” and sought to verify the suspected information with other fish vendors in the same marketplace. In some cases, follow-up interviews were required to clear up some points or in cases where incomplete answers have been given.

Additional statistical information on retail prices of some fishery products, red meats/poultry and wholesale prices of live fish, were also collected by national counterparts through follow-up surveys, and are included accordingly.

Figure 1: The Marketing Research Process for Low-cost Fish Retailing Equipment and Facilities in Large Urban Areas of Southeast Asia

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