41 of 100: Ag and COVID-19 FAO Q&A: COVID-19 pandemic – impact on fisheries and aquaculture

How to Start Small-Scale Fish Farming in East Africa •
Small Scale fish farming in East Africa

Q3: Will the COVID-19 pandemic affect local / global fish food chains?

Fish and fish products are among the most traded food products in the world, with 38 percent of fish/seafood entering international trade. At the same time, fishing and fish farming are important at local level for the livelihoods of many fish-dependent communities, as well as for low-income countries and small island developing states.

Measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 (e.g. closure of food services, cessation of tourism, reduction of transport services, trade restrictions, etc.) have caused disruption in both domestic and international supply chains. The fact that live, fresh or chilled fish, which represent 45 percent of fish consumed, are highly perishable products presents additional logistical challenges. Furthermore, widespread containment measures can have a notable impact on nations that trade significant amounts of seafood, reducing foreign incomes or threatening food security. Keeping the supply chain open is fundamental to avoid a global food crisis.

Q4: What are the key impacts on global and local seafood-dependent economies and livelihoods?

It is not yet clear whether the sector will experience a quick or slow recovery after the pandemic is over. While some seafood companies may manage or even benefit from the crisis, a level of industrial consolidation is to be expected, as well as re-sourcing. Digital innovation, accelerated shifts towards Web-based applications, online services and improved product traceability and sustainability are some of the results likely to emerge from the crisis.

At a local level, fishers and fish workers are adapting by changing fishing gears, targeting different species or selling their products to the domestic market. Some fishers, fish farmers and fish workers are selling directly to the consumer. While these innovations will support communities, especially women operating in the post-harvest sector, domestic markets have limits both in terms of demand and price.

In the short term, possible disruptions to economies and livelihoods could come from labour shortages (travel barriers, labour lay-offs, etc.); direct boat-to-consumer sales; aquaculture input shortages (feed, seed, vaccines); as well as fishing (e.g. bait, ice, gear, etc.); competition for sourcing and transport services (something which is already happening in the agricultural sector); and a lack of finance and cash flow (delayed payment of past orders).


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