1.1 General Objectives
1.2 Aquaculture Sector Objectives
Any national economy is built up of several sectors broadly categorized as, for example, heavy industry, manufacture of goods, production of food, supply of services, tourism, etc. All generate wealth in some form and compete for resources in order to do so.
A National Economic Development Plan will analyse the country's objectives and priorities in relation to all these sectors in response to well-identified national needs. It will propose and justify an overall plan in which the role of individual sectors, including aquaculture as a source of food, can be seen in context.
A well-researched and reasoned policy document is of immense value to a country in the allocation of its scarce resources. It relates the scope and timetable of projects to the resources available and the benefits which will accrue. It enables realistic and achievable decisions to be taken.
The private sector looks for a stable and sympathetic environment in which to invest securely and profitably. A national plan provides the evidence to make positive decisions.
In developing countries, a national plan also meets the need of the international development banks and donor organizations to make loans or to provide technical assistance to selected national projects with a clear understanding of the benefits, and assured of the government's own wholehearted commitment. Without them, a project has little meaning or purpose. The national plan also enables these different organizations to avoid wasteful overlap and competition by coordinating their respective programmes.
Finally, the government which sees fundamentally what must be done to secure its country's prosperity can act purposefully to bring it about. It can take strategic decisions which determine the course of events long into the future.
As a component of a National Economic Development Plan, a sector plan for aquaculture development will ensure that the legitimate claim of aquaculture to a share of resources is known and understood.
The priorities which dictate selection of sector targets are best described by the framework of needs which an effective industry helps to satisfy. In aquaculture the principal needs are considered to be four.
(1) Domestic production of food, and nutritional health
All countries give highest priority to national food security to supply basic nutrition and to improve diet. As food is not usually distributed evenly, identification of national needs are often by region or possibly a smaller demographic unit.
The importance of cultured aquatic foods as development targets for domestic consumption is determined to some degree by government policy, but there is always evidence of consumer trends and import statistics to interpret. For example, the high-protein content of fisheries products and medical support for their wide use in health programmes are undeniable benefits repeatedly in evidence.
Low production and distribution costs are prime advantages of nationally produced commodities. These are especially important for cultured aquatic products which are trying to establish a share of an existing and often long-established market. Even if production is not viewed primarily as a source of profit, as is the case in some assistance or social projects, those for whom it is intended must be able to pay.
There may be persuasive strategic arguments for some high-cost indigenous aquaculture production to replace cheap imported products. However, the long-term viability of even this investment depends on the reduction of local costs. The potential to achieve reduced costs must exist and be provided for.
(2) Foreign trade
The existing and forecast balance of trade figures are often used to identify a national need for products which can be exported to earn foreign currency. Typically, for aquaculture, these include the high-value marine products, namely fish and shellfish, and raw or processed marine algae.
As with investments for domestic food production or nutritional improvement, the common denominator in every export-based proposal is that investments not adequately rewarded by conventional profit will struggle to survive.
(3) Commercial profit
The incentive to exploit any accessible resources is to generate corporate profit or, at a lower level, to create income and thereby contribute to an improved standard of living for the producer. This is the most fruitful basis for aquaculture development, even when the resources may be little more than a natural water body or point of water source.
Among the rural poor in developing countries, aquaculture projects which have the profit incentive are a priority. The prospect of profit is self-motivating and attracts ongoing investment for a viable progressive industry.
(4) Job creation
In countries where high levels of long-term unemployment exist, the social implications of sector development may dictate priorities in favour of targets which are labour intensive. At times, some forms of subsidy or investment incentive are necessary, and economic and more appealing targets may have to be sacrificed or postponed as part of the national strategy or plan.
Wherever employment opportunities are limited, the major deprived group is often the less educated and unskilled. These untrained resources impose obvious constraints on the types of aquaculture development which will meet this need. The aquaculture industry, particularly at the level of production, is not labour intensive, although large farms employ significant numbers seasonally for harvest. The post-harvest industries, such as processing and packaging, require higher manning levels.
In summary, having established how aquaculture might meet these four principal needs, the purpose of the sector plan is to secure a favourable environment for investment in the broadest sense - knowledge and effort of all kinds, as well as finance. This will be referred to again, but examples are the designation of land and water zones for aquaculture development, and fiscal legislation which encourages more potential investors. For a description of the many components of the sector, and a framework in which they can be analysed, the reader should refer to Annex I.