COVID-19 : Impact on global fish trade


The outlook for the global fisheries and aquaculture sectors continues to be dominated by the wide-ranging implications of the COVID-19 pandemic and the new market landscape. Fish supply, consumption and trade revenues are all expected to decline this year due to the impact of containment restrictions on demand, logistics, prices, labour and business planning. Global aquaculture production is now expected to fall for the first time in many years, by some 1.3 percent. Sectors with longer production cycles, such as salmon, cannot adjust rapidly to the demand shifts, though shrimp and pangasius farmers have been able to quickly reduce their output significantly. Global catches from wild fisheries are also expected to decline slightly in 2020, as, overall, there is a reduced fishing effort due to COVID-19-related restrictions on fishing vessel crews and poor market conditions.

The market effects of the pandemic have brought about several far-reaching changes, many of which are likely to persist in the long term. Aggregate prices for 2020, as measured by the Fish Price Index, are down year-on-year for most traded species. The importance of retail sales has significantly increased at the expense of food services, as the hospitality sector has remained subdued. Consumers, who are trying to limit frequent visits to grocery stores and concerned about future lockdowns, have shifted their seafood preferences towards preserved and prepared products, while demand for fresh fish has waned. The necessity of home cooking is a new focus for marketing campaigns and online distributers, while product innovations centred on convenience are proliferating. The economic downturn and rising unemployment are affecting household incomes, with demand for luxury products such as lobster weakening. At the same time, sales of canned tuna, sardines and mackerel have seen a boost.

The outlook for the next few months is continued uncertainty and a strong tendency towards risk aversion on the part of businesses and consumers alike. The recent uptick in cases in many countries underlines the continuing threat to market stability. On the positive side, product innovations, new distribution channels and the shortening of value chains that have coincided with this upheaval are likely to benefit the seafood industry for many years to come.  

For more information, visit the dedicated COVID-19 section on GLOBEFISH

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