Aquaculture for Local Community Development ProgrammeGCP/RAF/277/BEL

ALCOM Field Document No. 34

The market for fish and fish products in Zimbabwe


By Sevaly Sen

Funding Agencies:


Executing Agency:

Harare, Zimbabwe, February 1995


ALCOM (Aquaculture for Local Community Development Programme) and The Zambia/Zimbabwe SADC Fisheries Project (ZZSFP) jointly funded a fish marketing study of Zimbabwe during the last quarter of 1994.

The study was intended to evaluate the current and probable future impact of fish imports on the Zimbabwe fish production and processing industry, in view of the large amounts of frozen, dried and smoked horse mackerel being imported from Namibia and the expansion of the kapenta fishery on Lake Cahora Bassa, Mozambique. Of particular interest were the current and anticipated effects of imported fish products upon the demand for locally produced fish products, and the price structure of fish products and the economic implications of price reductions for Zimbabwe-based kapenta producers, small-scale fishermen and fish far+wrs. This information would assist ALCOM and ZZSFP to better plan their activities with respect to fisheries and aquaculture development respectively.

The study was lead by Ms. Sevaly Sen, ALCOM Socio-economist, with assistance from Zimbabwean economists and market researchers.

ALCOM is a regional aquaculture and fisheries programme of the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations). Based in Harare, Zimbabwe, it covers all the member-countries of SADC (Southern African Development Community): Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Its aim is to assist member countries improve the living standards of rural populations through the practice of aquaculture and small reservoir fisheries. Towards this end, pilot activities are conducted in selected member-countries to demonstrate new techniques, technologies or methodologies. Successes achieved, ideas derived, and lesson learned are disseminated for use in the region. ALCOM began its work in 1986 and is funded by Sweden and Belgium, with contributions to pilot projects from member-countries.

The Zambia/Zimbabwe SADC Fisheries Project, which is funded by NORAD and DANIDA, operates through the lake Kariba Fisheries Research Institute in Kariba, Zimbabwe and the Department of Fisheries in Chilanga, Zambia. Tha aim of the Project is to provide the means for establishing a programme of collaboration research and management between Zambia and Zimbabwe which will lead to a system of sustainable joint management of the fisheries of Lake Kariba.

Mail: PO Box 3730, Harare, ZimbabweMail: PO Box 75, Kariba, Harare
Phone: +263-4-724985Phone: 263-61-2936/7
Fax: +263-4-736847Fax: 263-61-2938
Telex: 26040 FAO ZW 
E-mail: [email protected] 


The study would not have been possible without the kind cooperation and assistance of the many consumers, retailers, wholesalers and kapenta producers who generously gave their time to the research team. In addition, the study team was also greatly assisted by the staff of the Central Statistics Office and the Lake Kariba Fisheries Research Station.


A fish marketing study was carried out in Zimbabwe during October and November 1994. The study was a response to the absence of any up-to-date analysis of the current market situation in the country and the rapid changes occurring in the market as a result of increased imports from neighbouring countries. The study was requested by the department of National Parks and Wildlife Management and was jointly funded by the FAO programme Aquaculture for Local Community Development (ALCOM) and the Zambia/Zimbabwe SADC Fisheries Project.

The main objectives of the study were to determine the current trends in the supply and demand of the fish in Zimbabwe; assess the impact of imports of fish, especially cheap fish from Namibia and dried kapenta from Mozambique; project future trends and; assess the implications of the findings to the aquaculture and fisheries sector in the country.

The study employed a number of methods to gather information. Data were collected from secondary sources, postal questionnaire, price surveys and interviews with consumers, retailers, wholesalers and kapenta producers. Just over 3,800 consumers were interviewed all over the country, 67 retailers and 24 main wholesalers and kapenta producers. The study focused on low to middle income consumers.

The summarised results are as follows:

  1. In 1992, estimated per capita fish consumption was 2.66 kg/person. By 1994, estimated per capita fish consumed was 6.35 kg/person, representing an increase of 139%. Increases are most likely greater in urban, peri-urban areas and rural growth points, where refrigeration facilities are available. The main reason for the increase was imports of frozen horse mackerel from Namibia, which started in early 1993, as well as increases in the price of other meats, especially beef and chicken.

  2. 73% of rural respondents and 78% of urban respondents participating in the consumer survey, bought fish. Of these, 42% and 61% of rural and urban respondents respectively, bought frozen horse mackerel. 35% of rural and 13% of urban respondents bought dried kapenta, and 23% of rural and 20% of urban respondents purchased bream. Only a small percentage of these respondents bought other fish.

  3. The main reasons for purchasing horse mackerel was price - it was considered a cheap fish. The main reasons for purchasing dried kapenta was taste and price. The main reasons for purchasing bream was taste. In rural areas, availability was also an important reason for purchasing these three types of fish.

  4. Supply is considered good for both mackerel and dried kapenta, but bream is subject to erratic supplies and poor quality, the latter especially applies to the high value restaurants and hotel trade.

  5. Frozen horse mackerel has only penetrated those areas where retail outlets have refrigeration facilities. Dried kapenta is more popular in rural areas because no refrigeration is required.

  6. The main source of supply of dried kapenta is Lake Kariba. Very small amounts of dried kapenta from Lake Cahora Bassa in Mozambique are entering the market, as yet. It is reported that imports will increase from Lake Cahora Bassa, but transport and product quality remain a problem.

  7. Bream is a popular, but expensive, fish. Supplies are erratic but the market has not been affected by the imports of cheaper fish.

  8. Other imported fresh and frozen fish is targeted at high income consumers, which represent a very small proportion of the total market for fish. Whitefish such as hake and kingklip, in filleted or processed form is very popular. An estimated 60 – 100 tonnes of fish are imported for this market. Some other imported cheap fish from Namibia is also entering the market, but quantities are low.

  9. The market for the trout has been effected by the imports of high value marine fish.

  10. Substitute for the cheaper fish such as mackerel are mainly vegetables and beans as a similar quantity can be bought at the same price to feed a household. Beef cannot be considered a substitute because it is becoming unaffordable for most low income consumers. Mackerel has not affected the market for dried kapenta because, to a certain extent, the two products complete in slightly different markets.

  11. The average difference between wholesale and retail prices of the main fish consumed, is 20%. In general, wholesalers pay for transport and, in the case of kapenta, often for packaging costs. The margin between producer of imported price and wholesaler price averages between 30 – 50% of the producer price.

  12. The main variables affecting market segmentation are income and residence location.

  13. The market for fish in Zimbabwe has been rapidly changing and expanding as a result of increased supplies of low value imported fish and increased prices of traditional sources of animal protein. It is a volatile market and whilst the trend in fish consumption is clearly rising, the rate of increase in demand is dependant on availability of product, prices of alternatives.

  14. Overall, the impact of imports is considered to be positive, because cheaper sources of animal protein are now available to be majority of the population and because local production, in general, has not been negatively affected.

In the conclusions to the report, it is observed how imports of cheap frozen fish, in particular horse mackerel, have changed the national fish market in Zimbabwe. In the immediate future, the market for fish and fish products appears good though unstable, as it is experiencing many changes. The study has shown that the fish purchasing patterns for the majority of the population are largely driven by price and availability and are remarkably similar throughout the areas sampled. The report concludes that the potential for the expansion of fish farming in Zimbabwe is good, particularly for bream, provided production costs, and therefore price, can be kept low. The results imply that demand can be stimulated for new fish species, provided it is cheap, taking into account that most Zimbabwean consumers have to give price and availability rather than taste, a priority.

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This electronic document has been scanned using optical character recognition (OCR) software. FAO declines all responsibility for any discrepancies that may exist between the present document and its original printed version.


1.   Introduction

1.1   Terms of Reference

2.   Methodology

3.   Research Team

4.   Sample Size and Selection

5.   Results

5.1   Current National Fish Supply
5.2   Changes in Per Capita Fish Consumption since 992
5.3   Supply and Demand of Main Fish and Fish Products

5.3.1   Frozen Horse mackerel
5.3.2   Dried kapenta (matemba)
5.3.3   Bream
5.3.4   Frozen kapenta
5.3.5   Tinned Fish
5.3.6   Dried Horse Mackerel
5.3.7   Other Imported Fresh/Frozen Fish 20
5.3.8   Trout

5.4   Places where fish is purchased
5.5   Substitutes for Fish and Fish Products
5.6   Consumers which do not buy fish
5.8   Costs and Margins

6.   Projections for Demand and Supply

7.   Impact of Imported Fish

8.   Conclusions

8.1   Methodology
8.2   Results

9.   Recommendations

Appendix 1 Terms of Reference
Appendix 2   Postal Questionnaire
Appendix 3   Consumer Interview Schedule and Codes
Appendix 4   Retailer Interview Schedule
Appendix 5   Price Survey Form

List of Tables

Table 1   Sample Size and Methods Used
Table 2   Number of retail outlets included in sample and number of consumers interviewed
Table 3   Estimated Fish Supply 1992
Table 4   Imports 1990–April 1993
Table 5   Exports 1990–1992
Table 6   Estimated per capita fish consumption 1992 and 1994
Table 7   Transport costs for dried kapenta from Kariba to destinations in Zimbabwe

List of Figures

Figure 1   Fish consumed in rural and urban areas
Figure 2   Main reasons for buying horse mackerel
Figure 3   Frequency of Fresh/frozen horse mackerel consumption
Figure 4   Thoughts about mackerel from fish eaters who do not buy mackerel
Figure 5   Reasons for buying dried kapenta
Figure 6   Frequency of dried kapenta consumption
Figure 7   Main reasons for buying bream
Figure 8   Frequency of fresh/frozen bream consumption
Figure 9   Place where fish is purchased
Figure 10   Types of meat bought by fish consumers
Figure 11   Types of meat bought more than fish
Figure 12   Reasons why consumers buy more meat than fish
Figure 13   Types of fish bought by consumers who bought more fish than meat
Figure 14   Reasons for buying more fish than meat
Figure 15   Fish purchased as a result of increasing meat prices
Figure 16   Reasons for purchasing fish as a result of increase in meat prices
Figure 17   Reasons for not buying fish despite an increase in meat prices
Figure 18   Reasons for not buying fish
Figure 19   Minimum, maximum and average retail prices/kilo for 4 fish products
Figure 20   Minimum, maximum and average retail prices per kilo of dried kapenta by packet size
Figure 21   Minimum, maximum and average prices/kilo of tinned pilchards by tin size
Figure 22   Minimum, maximum and average prices/kilo for tinned sardines by tin size
Figure 23   Age of respondents in consumer survey
Figure 24   Fish product which households are consuming more than one year ago
Figure 25   Reasons for eating more fish than one year ago

Exchange Rate (December 1994)

US$ 1.00 = Z$ 8.37
South African Rand = $Z 2.39