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    Fish Products


    © International Trade Centre, International Trade Forum - Issue 3/2001

    The fish product sector is an important one for LDCs. Export turnover totals more than US$ 1.5 billion (of which US$ 0.9 billion comes from molluscs and crustaceans). Several LDCs are active in this sector: around 18 LDCs export frozen shrimps and prawns.

    Since 1995, LDCs have supplied 3.5% of the world's imports for fish, crustaceans and molluscs.

    Four countries (Bangladesh, Madagas-car, Mozambique and Myanmar) supplied over 90% of total LDC exports of crustaceans, while the bulk of LDC exports of molluscs was supplied by Mauritania (60%) and Senegal (18%).

    LDCs are also significant exporters of frozen sardines, tuna and octopus.

    Not so big in processed fish

    But LDCs currently account for only around 0.6% of total world exports in processed fish, whereas for fresh or chilled fish products their market share is much higher (4.2% for crustaceans and 2% for fish).

    The leading LDC exporter of processed fish is Senegal.


    Apart from the preparation of fillets, fish processing in LDCs consists mainly of canning, of tuna in particular. In 1999, however, fish-processing factories faced a financial crisis, caused by investments made to upgrade installations to comply with international technical standards and make their factories eligible for export permits to the EU.


    The major trend affecting the form in which fish is consumed is convenience. Demand will continue to shift from whole fish to time-saving fillets and pre-packed products. Products prepared for the fast-food sector, sold mainly through restaurants and fast-food outlets, are also increasing. Concerning the types of fish consumed, the trend points increasingly towards farmed species, whitefish, crustaceans and molluscs in developed countries and to low-value species, such as small pelagics, in developing countries.

    Constraints and opportunities

    Developed countries and a large number of developing countries and some LDCs have introduced specific "Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point" (HACPP) preventive systems and regulations regarding the safety of fish and fish products. Lack of appropriate inspection, quality assurance and control arrangements will increasingly place the fish sector in LDCs at risk in the future and adversely affect export development.

    In contrast to the past, demand for fish in the future will no longer be driven in developed countries by a rising per capita consumption of proteins, but by the preferences of an ageing, better-educated, health-conscious and more demanding consumer. The market has moved towards higher-quality, fresh fish products.


    The major constraint faced by LDCs in expanding their fishery industry is to ensure that their products continue to meet the growing health and safety requirements of importing countries. Other constraints include:

    • lack of funds for the development of new harbours and the renovation or replacement of fleets;
    • inadequate infrastructure, facilities and lack of sufficient skilled personnel;
    • over-fishing of several areas and a depletion of breeding stocks; and
    • lack of means to police coasts and stop foreign vessels fishing illegally in LDC waters.

    For more information, see the Fisheries Department section of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization's web site (available from http://www.fao.org/fi). For technical assistance from ITC, contact Rudy Kortbech-Olesen, ITC Senior Market Development Adviser, at kortbech@intracen.org