Aquaculture (already) for the poor
Aquaculture’s contribution to food security in the Global South is widely misunderstood. Policy and research often assumes farmed fish are traded internationally, and especially to wealthier import markets. New joint research from the Michigan State University, Wageningen University and Stirling University shows this is an outdated view. These findings support GCP project SUPERSEAS’ focus on studying domestic and regional markets.
Aquaculture production is the fastest growing food sector globally. The volume of fish has expanded at 8% a year over the last decade, and more countries are engaging in the sector than ever.
Faced with questions of just how sustainable this rapid growth is, research and policy has predominantly focused on small number of internationally species, including tilapia, salmon, shrimp and pangasius. This narrow focus has led to series of poor assumptions.
For example, it is commonly thought that aquaculture contributes mainly to international trade benefiting richer Northern consumers, or provides for wealthy urban consumers in Southern markets. It is also assumed that ‘small-scale’, low input, semi-subsistence farming is the primary means for aquaculture to contribute to food security. It is also often assumed that ‘industrial’ export oriented aquaculture undermines local food security.
“These assumptions have essentially hidden the realities of aquaculture in major producing countries in the global South”, says lead author Ben Belton from Michigan State University.
In fact, farmed fish is produced predominantly by commercial and increasingly intensive farms, is increasingly cheap and widely available, and overwhelmingly remains in Southern domestic markets for consumption by poor and middle income consumers in both urban and rural areas.
The aquaculture industry now makes an important but underappreciated contribution to global food security. A reorientation in our understanding of aquaculture is necessary.
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The related paper can be accessed at:
Belton, B., Bush, S. R., & Little, D. C. (2017). Not just for the wealthy: Rethinking farmed fish consumption in the Global South. Global Food Security. DOI: doi.org/10.1016/j.gfs.2017.10.005