Food Coalition

Trade in fisheries and aquaculture

The COVID-19 pandemic, unprecedented in modern times, caused major disruption in societies around the world and inflicted severe damage on the global economy. The seafood sector, along with the majority of industries, had to deal with a bleak demand outlook and an array of supply challenges.

Fish and fish products are a highly traded international commodity, with 221 states and territories having some fish trading activity. Fish products often cross multiple international borders during their journey from production to processing and on to the final consumer. Fish exports for human consumption, in value terms, are higher than the exports of all other animal proteins combined. Therefore, for many species frequently traded internationally, the impact of supply disruption shocks, including price volatility, is no longer confined to the country or region in which they occur.

In addition, the steady increase share of developing countries in the international trade flows, with faster rates of growth compared to developed countries, has been a defining feature of global fish market development.

During the pandemic, with the effective shutdown of the restaurant industry, foodservice demand has evaporated, while retail sales have been marked by extreme volatility, as periods of panic buying are followed by sustained lulls. The associated effects on the international trade of fish and fish products have been notable with spillovers on pre-harvest, harvest and distribution. Demand for packaged and frozen products has spiked and online distributors reported increased interest as home-bound consumers explored retail alternatives. However, demand has been overall reduced, and prices have fallen for many species. Meanwhile, suppliers and processors are struggling with business closures all along the supply chain and many other logistical difficulties. Exporters must contend with closed or restricted borders and health inspection delays, in addition to facing safety requirements for their products not necessarily based on science and logistic challenges.

International trade of fish and fish products can continue to provide better income distribution between developed and developing countries, empowering small-scale producers and women and contributing to food security, reducing hunger, and social and economic development. However, in order to have all those positive corollaries pullulating, a strategic set of capacity building, technical assistance and strategic support must be continuously implemented to allow actors throughout the value-chain to fully and effectively explore international trade possibilities. The international trade flow of fish and fish products must continue undisrupted, focusing on responsible fisheries including sustainability and legality of products, associated with the compliance with international trade requirements and a science-based approach towards trade measures, and promoting the basic information tools to assess and access international markets particularly in neighboring countries.

Priority Areas of work: Trade and Food Safety Standards
SDG: 1. No Poverty, 2. Zero Hunger, 8. Decent Work and Economic Growth, 12. Responsible Consumption and Production, 14. Life Below Water, 17. Partnerships to achieve the Goal
Level: Global
Budget: USD 1 million

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