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Brussels Briefing: Major fish farming potential in ACP largely untapped

Video guest: Josephine Mwangi

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Friday, 12 July 2013

Brussels Briefing: Major fish farming potential in ACP largely untapped

While the global demand for fish is climbing faster than current resources can meet, fish farming or aquaculture remains a largely underdeveloped industry in African, Caribbean and Pacific regions – this was one of the main conclusions of the experts speaking at the 32nd Brussels Briefing on "Fish-farming", which took place on 3rd of July at the ACP Secretariat in Brussels.
The speakers noted almost unanimously  the “significant potential” of the sector across ACP regions, if the right policies were in place. 

Senior fisheries advisor at the New partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), Sloans Chimatiro said that while the tonnage of aquaculture production in Africa pales in comparison to Asia, the rate of expansion is “spectacular”, with an 80-90% growth within the last five years.
But even with this increase, fish supply – both captured and farmed – will not be able to fulfil demand in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2015: “Africa might be able to import fish from other parts of the world, but I think there is potential is to increase the amount of fish produced locally could lie in the aquaculture subsector,” Chimatiro disclosed.
In this context, Chimatiro considers that market-led approaches could be the best solution for boosting aquaculture growth in Africa (for example, the commercially driven model in Nigeria, which also offers opportunities to rural youth).
He also mentioned good governance and political will as key aspects for the development of the industry. In fact, the African Union Heads of States - at the Food Security Summit in Abuja, Nigeria in December - named fisheries and aquaculture as strategic commodities alongside rice, maize and other strategic food products.

Executive Director of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM), Milton Haughton also pointed to the high per capita fish consumption in the Caribbean – 77kg each year in Antigua, and more than 30kg each in the Bahamas, Barbados, Grenada and St. Kitts. He revealed though that most supply are imported, due to the high input cost of fish farming. Another factor he mentioned for the low level of supply is a general decline of the industry since the mid-2000s, affected in parts by impacts of the global economic crisis and climate change. However, “despite the recent decline in aquaculture production, it has actually provided an opportunity to have a new look at the aquaculture industry in the region and learn from the lessons and experiences,” stated Haughton.
For the Caribbean, a regional CARICOM development strategy for 2013-2020 includes plans to develop the sector by adopting an ecosystem approach to aquaculture, creating a regional working group, as well as enabling policy and legal frameworks. Voluntary guidelines and best management practices and standards are also expected.


Lastly, the Pacific region was described as a strong domestic market base, which is buoyed by vast territorial waters - similar in size to the African continent.  Yet, the island landmasses are small and scattered, which hinders a solid development of the sector.
Aquaculture specialist from the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Tim Pickering stressed that for Pacific micro-economies, even small developments in aquaculture can have an impact. While regional earnings top only US $200 – 250 million per year (mainly from blacklip pearl and shrimp), the socio-economic benefits for small communities are vital. For instance, in Papua New Guinea, 10,000 – 20,000 farmers raise tilapia and carp inland where fish is scarce. Sea weed farming is also ongoing in outlying small islands where there are few other economic opportunities. “It is low in value, but a little bit of cash in empty pockets makes a big difference,” Pickering said.
He added that the Pacific region can take lessons from aquaculture practices in Africa, especially in involving the private sector.

The briefings session also cited possible cooperation amongst fish farming groups in Africa, Caribbean and the Pacific. The EU-funded ACP Fish II programme – which provides assistance to fisheries development in ACP countries – was also mentioned in this context.

This event marked the 32nd edition of the Brussels Development Briefings – a regular event organized in Brussels by the Technical Centre for Agriculture (CTA) – in collaboration with the European Commission, the ACP Group, and other partners – on key issues and challenges for rural development in the context of EU/ACP cooperation.
For the full recording of the session, programme, speakers'bio data, and an in-depth research on the topic visit: http://brusselsbriefings.net

Source: ACP Secretariat