Economic and Social Department

 global information and early warning system on food and agriculture

 food outlook
No. 1 Rome, February 2003

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Current Production and Crop Prospects


Carryover Stocks

Export Prices

Fish and Fisheries Products


Appendix Tables


Fish and Fisheries Products



Total world fish production (capture plus aquaculture) in 2001 is estimated at 129.3 million tonnes, slightly below the previous year's production of 130.4 million tonnes. The decline in 2001 was due primarily to reduced catches of small pelagics fisheries in South America, particularly in Peru. Of the total world production in 2001, fish capture accounted for 91.8 million tonnes. This is 3 million tonnes short of the 2000 record capture. Aquaculture production continued to expand in 2001, reaching 37.5 million tonnes, or 29 percent of total fisheries production, compared to a share of just 15 percent in 1990.

Fishery Production 1/

  1999 2000 2001
  ( . . .million tonnes . . . )
China 40 029 41 600 42 580
Peru 8 437 10 665 7 996
India 5 593 5 689 5 689
Japan 5 961 5 752 5 405
USA 5 228 5 173 5 402
Indonesia 4 736 4 929 5 117
Chile 5 325 4 692 4 363
Russian Federation 4 210 4 048 3 718
Thailand 3 621 3 631 3 631
Norway 3 096 3 191 3 199
Others 40 415 41 095 42 200
World total 126 651 130 433 129 300
1/ Fish, crustaceans, molluscs, etc. - nominal catches including acquaculture.

China is now by far the top producer of fish with some 42.6 million tonnes in 2001. Peru recovered its second position among the main producing countries, but reported a strong reduction in 2001 compared with 2000. India is now the third major fishing nation in 2001 with 5.7 million tonnes.

International Trade by Principal Importers

  1999 2000 2001
  ( . . . million US$ . . . )
Japan 14 700 15 500 13 500
USA 9 400 10 500 10 300
Spain 3 300 3 400 3 700
France 3 300 3 000 3 100
Italy 2 700 2 500 2 700
Germany 2 300 2 300 2 400
UK 2 300 2 200 2 200
China 1 100 1 800 1 800
China, H.Kong 1 600 1 900 1 800
Denmark 1 800 1 800 1 700
Others 15 100 15 200 16 100
World total 57 600 60 000 59 300

Total world imports of fish products declined slightly in 2001 in value terms to US$59 300 million. Developed countries accounted - as usual - for more than 80 percent of the total. Japan was again the biggest importer of fishery products, accounting for some 22 percent of the global total, though a substantial decline from the 30 percent share that this country used to have. Japan's imports of fish and fishery products have declined due to the continuous economic recession. The EU further increased its dependency on imports for its fish supply. The share of the EU in the value of world imports increased to 35 percent. The United States, besides being the world's fourth major exporting country, was the second biggest importer of fish products in 2001 with value of US$10 200 million.

Thailand and China are the world's major exporters of fish products in value terms, with US$4 000 million each. China has impressively expanded its performance as a fish exporter in recent years and is likely to have overtaken Thailand as major fish exporter in 2002.

International Trade by Principal Exporters

  1999 2000 2001
  ( . . . million US$ . . . )
Thailand 4 100 4 400 4 000
China 3 000 3 600 4 000
Norway 3 800 3 500 3 400
USA 2 900 3 100 3 300
Canada 2 600 2 800 2 800
Denmark 2 900 2 800 2 700
Chile 1 700 1 800 1 900
Spain 1 600 1 600 1 800
China, Taiwan 1 700 1 800 1 800
Viet Nam 900 1 500 1 800
Others 27 600 28 500 28 100
World total 52 800 55 300 55 600

Review by Commodity


Shrimp is the world's most important fish commodity accounting for about 19 percent of international trade in value terms. The EU, Japan and the United States are the world's major importers of shrimp. Their combined imports is stable at 950 000 tonnes annually.

There are signs of a pick-up in shrimp prices during the second half of 2002. It is likely that import growth in several key markets during this period will be weaker than in the first half of the year. While 2002 as a whole should be a record year for imports by the United States (in volume terms), Japan's imports this year are likely to be similar to the level in 2001. In Europe, Spanish shrimp imports for the first 8 months of 2002 were on a par with levels for last year while French imports for the January - September period were up 5 percent on the corresponding 2001 period. In all key shrimp markets, import values in 2002 will be lower than 2001 levels as a result of weaker average prices. On the producer side, year-end figures should confirm strong export performances by Viet Nam and Brazil for 2002 as a whole.

Tuna: After two years of extremely low prices in 1999 and 2000, the tuna market stabilized in 2001 and continues to remain stable in 2002. After the fishing bans enforced by the private tuna industry, prices continue to remain steady at a level which is considered economically viable by producers and processors. The prices of raw material for canning are expected to stay at present levels, while the sashimi market depends much more on quality and demand in Japan, with some improvements foreseen for the coming months.

Bluefin tuna farming in the Mediterranean was difficult in 2002 since lower catches of bluefin resulted in less tuna to be put into onward growing pens. Bad weather during the summer months led to a shorter fishing season than usual. Total production of the farming industry in 2002 is estimated to be 5 000 tonnes in Spain, 3 000 tonnes in Croatia, 1 500 tonnes in Italy and 1 000 tonnes in both Malta and Turkey, for a total of 11 500 tonnes in the Mediterranean. The fish are normally caught in summer months, mainly in July, and then put into the pens. They are kept for about 6 months, awaiting the main consumption period in Japan, the year-end season, which brings the highest prices for the sashimi tuna. The fish grows in the pens by about 15 percent in weight during this period. The feed consists mainly of live or very fresh pelagic fish, which is an interesting market outlet for the pelagic fish production from the area.

Groundfish: Indications for 2002 point to a decrease in frozen Atlantic cod fillet imports in key markets. The general decrease in fillet imports, attributed by the trade to higher prices, is balanced in certain markets by an increase in whole frozen imports. Competition from double frozen Chinese fillets may undermine any further increase in cod fillet prices in 2003. This increase may reduce any upward pressure on block prices but there is uncertainty as to the likely utilization of any increased Russian Federation production.

Representatives from the pollock industry report that increasing amounts of Alaska pollock are driving the whole ocean whitefish industry. Governments are finally beginning to see some positive results from implementing a conservative management scheme over many years.

About half of the Alaska Pollock harvest is processed into a fish paste called surimi, which is fashioned into many products in Japan and other Asian nations. Much of the remainder is filleted and frozen in block form for reprocessing in the United States and in Europe.

Alaska groundfish, with pollock being the dominant species, is one of the most important United States fish harvests. In 2001, the fishery produced a catch of 1.9 million tonnes and an ex-vessel value of US$543 million. According to federal figures, this represented 47 percent of the quantity and 17 percent of the value of the total United States domestic landings. After primary processing, the value of fish increased sharply to reach about US$1.4 billion.

The Norwegian groundfish industry is in a major crisis. The estimated size of the cod resource, which is the main species caught, is low, and prospects for recovery are poor. As a result, quotas have been reduced but prices remain low. In three years, the cod quota in the Barents Sea had to be lowered by 460 000 tonnes, with negative effects on the Norwegian and Russian Federation industry. Vessels from these countries are now mainly landing small cod, that means 3-4 year old, which also does not help in rebuilding the stock.

Cephalopods: Illex catches in Argentine waters in 2003 are forecast to be even lower than the reduced 2002 levels. This will have a direct impact on prices which should go up. However, experience teaches that forecasting the future Illex season at this time of the year can often be erroneous, leading in many cases to speculative purchases and over-pricing. The octopus market seems to have normalized in recent months, and no dramatic price developments are foreseen. The measure of the Moroccan government of fixing minimum prices seems to have been successful in raising prices, and prices have soared from the very low levels reached in 2001 and early 2002.

Squid supplies are expected to stay low in 2003. The flying squid resource in Japan is reported to be in a poor state overall, while Illex catches in the South West Atlantic are expected to be even lower than in 2002. Giant squid catches in Peru are expected to be affected by the El Niño, which could lead to a shortage of squid on the market.

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