Inland Fisheries

The market for fish and fish products in Zimbabwe. ALCOM Field Document No. 34.

Livelihoods, decent work & resilience

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:

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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.

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

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.

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.