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3.1 The Marketing Chain

The objective throughout the distribution chain is to deliver to the markets high quality fish that the consumers will buy at a price that will satisfy them and a profit to those involved in the distribution chain.

The producers, the broker, the wholesalers and the retailers should be aware of their responsibilities in providing a product of top quality that would satisfy the consumers.

3.1.1 Responsibilities of the broker

The broker should give a premium to high quality fish and should demand such from the producers. He should take upon himself the responsibility of assuring that fish delivered to him by the producers are strictly fresh. As soon as the fish is delivered to him, he should:

  1. Check if the fish are properly iced.

  2. Dispose the fish immediately or preserve the keeping quality of fish until it is finally disposed.

  3. See to it that fish are transported in an insulated van. If not, measures should also be taken to protect it from direct sunlight, wind and possible sources of contamination. Wind tends to warm the fish or melt the ice used in cooling.

3.1.2 Responsibilities of the wholesaler

Although the wholesaler's responsibilities in keeping the quality of the fish is equally important as that of the other members in the distribution chain, theirs is greater because they handle a bigger volume of fish.

In most cases, the wholesalers handle a big bulk of fish which are usually not disposed during the day and have to be stored for several days until they are finally disposed. For this reason, it is important that the wholesalers observe the following measures in the handling and storage of fish:

Table 4. Comparative Analysis of Fish Containers
HANDLINGSusceptible to deformation during handling;
Slightly difficult to handle, because of weight.
Slightly difficult to handle;
Wet wood is heavy to handle.
Easy to handle;
Light in weight.
Easy to handle;
Light in weight.
Easy to handle;
Light in weight.
MAINTENANCECleans easily;
Can easily be repaired.
Difficult to clean;
Decays easily;
If not properly maintained wood splinters can result to injury to handlers.
Difficult to clean;
Cannot be repaired.
Easy to clean;
Damage can be in the form of cracks;
Repair is not recommended.
Difficult to clean;
Absorb moisture and bacteria;
Structurally weak and easily damaged.
Ice melts easily due to outside heat inasmuch as these baskets are loosely woven.
Very goodExcellent
AVAILABILITYLocally procuredLocally procuredReadily availableMostly imported raw materialsImported raw materials
DURABILITYReasonably durableResistant to bumpsDecays easily;
Not durable.
Can withstand extreme heat or cold.
Not durable
  1. He should check if the fish are properly iced, well-protected and handled in clean fish containers.

  2. He should store the fish that has not been disposed in the following manner:

3.1.3 Responsibilities of the retailer

It is recognized that fresh fish spoil rapidly unless they are thoroughly chilled. This holds true to all the stages fish have to go through until they reach the consumers. The last link in that chain takes place in the retailer's shop. Therefore, all the efforts made to preserve their quality with ice would be useless if the retailers will not contribute their share in maintaining fish quality.

The retailer has the following responsibilities:

  1. He should see to it that fish to be retailed are in good condition, that is, the fish should be kept as near as possible to melting ice temperature.

  2. He should keep the display table clean and make sure that it is provided with adequate drainage so that blood and slime would not accumulate on the display table.

  3. He should see to it that display area is properly protected from direct sunlight and other elements.

  4. He should place ice on fish displayed.

  5. He should display just enough fish on the display table and serve customers from the display, rather than leave the display intact by serving from bulk; this ensures that the displayed fish is being renewed continuously and always at its best.

3.2 Transport of Fish from Source to Market

The prime objective in the transport of fish is to move the fish from one place to another in such a manner as to ensure as little change in the quality as possible. Fish have to be moved significant distances until they eventually reach the consumers, since a majority of consumers are not close to the places where fish are harvested. One of the most difficult problems encountered during the transport of fish is the preservation of its freshness until it finally reaches the consumer. Since fish spoilage is largely controlled by temperature, enzymatic and bacterial activity, the control of temperature during transport, through icing or chilling must always be observed.

The bulk of the fish in the Philippines is transported by and using ordinary trucks and jeepneys and some by rail. The trucks are of the ordinary open-bodied type without insulation or any form of refrigeration. These are used for distributing fish from the wholesale markets in the cities and suburbs. The transport of fish by rail and buses takes place mostly in the Bicol and Southern Luzon areas. These railway cars are not insulated and the volume transported is only of minor significance.

Sea or water transport of fish is carried out by cargo boats. Some are carried out by private fishing vessels while a small quantity is carried out by inter-island cargo vessels.

Air transport is accomplished by either the regular passenger flights or in some instances, by chartered cargo planes.

A study on the handling and icing of milkfish, entitled “Standardization of Handling, Icing and Freezing of Milkfish” was conducted in 1975 by Dolendo, et. al., of the Food Terminal Incorporated.8 This included the pre-chilling and icing of fish and containers used during transport by boat, air and land.

Results showed that for land transport, the bañera is the most appropriate container because it is durable, easy to clean and economical. The fish were first prechilled before they were packed in ice. An ice to fish ratio of 1:2 was found sufficient to preserve fish quality for short distances. For longer distances, however, a 1:1 ice to fish ratio gave better quality fish compared to 1:2 ratio. The study also stressed the importance of the fish being protected from exposure to sun, wind and rain, mechanical damage and loss in surface moisture or dehydration during transport.

Established guidelines of airline companies accept dry cargoes and for wet cargoes, containers must be tightly secured and leakproof. Styrene boxes are acceptable containers for air transport. Styrene is light in weight and has a good insulator that can prevent the rapid melting of ice and emission of fishy odor. The study further revealed that fish pre-chilled immediately after harvest and packed in ice with a 1:4 ice to fish ratio was found sufficient to maintain high quality with a travel time of approximately one hour. For shorter duration, a lower ratio of ice to fish of 1:8, 1:10 and even 1:20 can still give a good quality of fish, provided that, fish were pre-chilled at the source.

8 Dolendo, A.L., et. al., op. cit. p. 40–61

For water transport, the study made revealed that the ordinary shipping cargo boats with a travel time of 24 hours using the four types of containers of the same dimensions but differing only in interior specifications are acceptable. Results showed that the insulated container with drainage outlets on four sides as well as bañeras separated from each other by movable wooden boards gave the best quality fish. Although the ice to fish ratio in this type of container was only 1:10, the fish were still of good quality owing to the pre-chilling treatment made at the source and the fish were properly packed. On one type of container, the fish were not pre-chilled and thus deteriorated faster in spite of the application of 1:1 proportion of ice to fish. This again stresses the importance of pre-chilling treatment of fish immediately after harvest and the proper method of packing the fish in ice.

3.3 Market Forms of Fish

Fish, particularly bangus and tilapia are generally marketed whole or round. However, they may also be marketed in any of the following forms:

Whole or round fish is sold just as it comes from the water. It must be dressed before cooking.

Drawn fish have had their entrails removed. Since entrails cause rapid spoilage, drawn fish can be kept longer.

Headed and gutted fish have head, tail, fins and viscera removed before sale.

Dressed or “pan ready” fish are completely cleaned and ready to prepare when purchased.

Steaks are larger sizes of dressed fish and yield an edible portion of about 86 to 92%.

Fillets are sides of the fish cut away from the backbone. They are ready for cooking and 100% edible without any waste. They are usually the housewife's best buy despite their seemingly high cost.

Chunks are cross-section of large dressed fish, having cross-section of the backbone.

Fish sticks are pieces of fish flesh cut into uniform width and length, and usually breaded before cooking.

Fish portions are larger than fish sticks but uniform in size and weight. One portion is usually enough for a single serving.

Deboned fish (for “bangus” species only), whole fish is split, butterfly-fillet style with all spines removed using forceps.

Shrimps/prawn are also generally marketed whole, but for export purposes, it is marketed in any of the following forms:

Whole - the head is retained.

Headless with shell on - the head is removed but the shell of the body is retained.

Peeled - head and shell are removed.

Peeled and de-veined - the shell and vein in the alimentary canal are removed.

Cooked or uncooked

Crabs are generally marketed alive but in other countries they are cooked then chilled or sometimes frozen, pickled, or stuffed.

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