Fishery exports and Least Developed Countries

United Nations

A new UNCTAD study examines the development potential of the fishery sector in selected Least Developed Countries in Africa and Asia, providing policy recommendations to overcome challenges on both the supply and demand sides. Fish is one of the world’s most traded food commodities and, with the global population growing to an expected 9.7 billion people by 2050, demand for it fish also expected to increase. That offers valuable trade opportunities. In addition to human consumption, industrial need for fishery resources is projected to rise in the coming decades due to growing demand for fish oil and animal feed.

Wild catch alone will not sustain the increase in demand for fish. There should be deliberate actions by Least Developed Countries (LDCs) to enhance aquaculture development so as to meet the increase. The UNCTAD study documents that, over the last three decades, global aquaculture production has tripled, growing at an average annual rate of 8.3 per cent. In 2014, aquaculture constituted 46 per cent of world fish production compared to 26 per cent in 1994. Fishing, both coastal and inland, holds significant potential for socioeconomic development for a number of LDCs. Many have comparative advantages in fishery resources due to a combination of low-cost labour and waters rich in highly-prized varieties of fish.

The social, economic and environmental benefits of the fishery sector are substantial. In addition to creating employment and increasing foreign exchange earnings, fishing provides a major source of protein in many LDCs and is important for improving food security. The study urges governments and stakeholders in LDCs to view the fishery sector as a key driver in enabling the countries to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The fisheries sector is also a viable alternative to manufacturing as a source of export-led growth. Developing countries as a whole have substantially increased their share in world fishery exports, from 34.6 per cent in 1981 to 50.2 per cent in 2013. However, despite their ample fish stocks, not many LDCs have been able to follow suit, and their share in global fish exports has only risen marginally, from 1.6 to 3.5 per cent in the same period. The work of UNCTAD reveals that the fishery sector in LDCs remains predominantly traditional or artisanal. In its research, UNCTAD presents case studies of six of the world’s 47 LDCs — Bangladesh, Cambodia, the Comoros , Mozambique, Myanmar and Uganda — and identifies a series of supply-side and demand-side challenges undermining the role of their fishery sectors.