Africa harmonizes policies to boost fish trade

fish-farmingAn ambitious project aimed at improving earnings from fish sector as well as increasing production among sub-Saharan Africa fish farmers has been launched.

The project is hinged on the fact that Sub Saharan Africa has great potential for increased production and trade in fish with plentiful fish resources in oceans, rivers, lakes, floodplains and fish farms. According to Hamady Diop, Programme Manager Fisheries and Aquaculture NEPAD, despite these immense resources, Africa accounts for just 4.9 percent of global fish trade hence the need to improve on these stats. “More efficient trade could significantly improve income and nutrition for millions of Africans, particularly those 12.3 million that are directly employed in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors,” added Diop.

Trade is constrained by inadequate market and trade infrastructure and poor policy implementation. High transport costs, complex and unaligned trade rules and poor market information also prevent Africa from optimizing the social and economic benefits available.

Stephen J Hall, Director General, WorldFish explained, “Africa has the potential to develop its fisheries and aquaculture to play a much greater role in promoting food security, providing livelihoods and supporting economic growth. Per capita consumption has fallen, despite Africa’s great abundance of aquatic resources. Fish Trade will create the foundations for a more solid, productive and sustainable building-up of this great, continent-wide resource.”

Diop further alluded to these sentiments noting that recent years have seen increased growth in aquaculture. FishTrade will provide the opportunity to learn from past successes and failures and governments will be given the right information to be able to create the incentives and infrastructure that investors need to meet local demand and penetrate higher value-added export markets.”

Steve Wathome, Programme Manager, Agriculture and Rural Development Delegation of the European Union to Kenya, European Commissionnoted that the EU is convinced that the Fish Trade programme will significantly contribute towards the fisheries sector in Africa. “Trade has been identified as one of the major challenges affecting growth of the fish sector in Africa, with challenges being notable with regard to intra-Africa trade and accessing global markets,” added Wathome.

FishTrade will work in four ‘corridors’ to generate information on the structure, products and value of intra-regional fish trade and its contribution to food security in sub-Saharan Africa. Recommendations will be prepared on policies, fish certification guidelines and quality and safety standards, as well as regulations. A second stage will focus on strengthening the trade capacities of private sector associations; in particular of women fish processors, women traders and all aquaculture producers, in order for them to make better use of expanding trade opportunities through competitive small- and medium-scale enterprises.

The program will equip governments with the capacities needed to implement the African Union Policy Framework and Reform Strategy for Fisheries and Aquaculture in Africa. In addition, it has been designed to support the work of governments towards implementation of the Malabo Declaration on Accelerated Agricultural Growth and Transformation for Shared Prosperity And Improved Livelihoods.

Fish contains important micronutrients and omega-3 fatty acids that are particularly important in Africa where one in three children is stunted as a result of poor nutrition. Fish accounts for just over one fifth of sub-Saharan Africa’s protein intake but per-capita fish consumption has stagnated and is now under half the global average.

The continent produces 9.9 million tonnes of fish a year and yet its share of global trade in this valuable commodity is just 4.9percent. In 2011 the value of pan-African fish trade was US$24bn, equivalent to 1.26percent gross domestic product of all African countries. The fisheries sector in Africa employs 12.3 million; accounting for 2percent of Africa’s population between 15 and 64 years old; and of whom 27percent are women.

In Uganda, Fish farming is taking roots with many more farmers joining the trade. Statistics from the Department of Fisheries Resources show that fish exports in Uganda increased from 1,664 tonnes worth $1.4 million (about Shs3.5 billion) in 1990 to 36,615 tonnes worth $143.6 million (about Shs362.6 billion)in 2005, but dropped sharply back to 16,480 tonnes fetching $89.1m (about Shs225b) by 2011.

The initiative is being implemented by World Fish and, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) as well as the African Union Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR). It is funded by the European Commission is dubbed ‘FishTrade for a Better Future’. The aim of the project is to strengthen value chains and, with a focus on sustainability, give better access to intra-regional markets and subsequently improve food and nutritional security and income in sub-Saharan Africa.