Norway, which used to be number two fish exporter in previous years, reported lower export values, due to falling salmon prices, but also caused by the weak Euro in the period- the currency of the main trading area for Norwegian fish.
The major importing markets are the European Union, Japan and the United States. The most traded commodities are shrimp, tuna, groundfish and salmon.
A large share of fish production enters international trade, with about 37 percent exported (live weight equivalent) in 2000. Trade flows of fishery products are mainly from developing to developed countries, and from the southern to the northern hemisphere. There is little trade between developing countries, although regional trade is rising.
Developed countries accounted for more than 80% of total imports of fishery products in 2000 in value terms. Japan was again the biggest importer of fishery products, accounting for some 26% of the global total. Japanese imports of fish and fishery products had declined sharply in 1998 due to the economic recession, and only in 2000 was the value of Japanese imports back to the level of 1997.
The European Union (EU) further increased its dependency on imports for its fish supply. Apart from Spain, the present number three importer of fishery products, all other major countries of the Euro-currency area reported lower value of imports in 2000. The United States, besides being the world's fourth major exporting country, was the second biggest importer. Imports grew in 2000, mainly due to expanding shrimp purchases.
The net receipts of foreign exchange by developing countries - deducting their imports from the total value of their exports - increased in 2000 to US$ 18 000 million, after several years of stability at around US$ 16 000 million. This is more than the net exports from developing countries of other agricultural commodities such as rice, coffee, tea, etc. For many developing nations, fish trade represents a significant source of foreign currency earnings.
The economic crisis in Japan led to lower demand for shrimp. The main supplying countries had to reduce prices and to look for other outlets, in order to sell their production. The market in the United States was strong in 2000, but declined sharply in 2001. The dramatic events of 11 September increased the slowing down of the market. Demand for shrimp in Europe was improving, in parallel with the overall economic situation.
Disease problems, experienced by Ecuador and Central America in 1999, led to lower production of cultured shrimp also in 2000 and 2001. Thailand continues to be the main shrimp aquaculture producer with 250 000 tonnes, and cultured shrimp production is growing after the disease problems experienced in the 1990s.
Tuna catches had been strong in 1999, and skipjack prices declined to unknown low, making fishing uneconomical. In mid-2000, the main tuna vessel owners created an organization with the aim to normalise the market. Stringent catch reduction programmes were put into place by this organisation, which had an immediate effect on prices. During the course of 2001, members of the organization met regularly, keeping catch reduction in place.
Thailand continues to be the main exporter of canned tuna to the United States market, but lower exports were experienced in 2001. The Philippines remained in second position. The use of tuna loins by Italian canners continues to expand. Loins as raw material now account for about 70 percent of total Italian canned tuna production. Ecuador and Colombia are benefiting from their special duty-free status as Andean community countries and are increasing their shipments to the EU.
Groundfish supply was very limited in the first half of 2001. Alaska pollack supply was reduced in all main markets. Cod and hake also reported lower catches and less availability. Prices did not go up as much as expected, as other species - salmon and tilapia - are replacing groundfish in many markets.
Squid fisheries were low in 2001, especially Illex catches from the South West Atlantic. Octopus catches in the Eastern Central Atlantic were good in the beginning of 2001, leading to higher exports directed to Japan. The Moroccan Government fixed a minimum price, in a move to protect its octopus industry.
Fishmeal and fish oil
The 2001 fishmeal production is forecast at 5.4 million tonnes, which is a 12% decrease from 2000. Various fishing bans and problems with the jack mackerel resource in Chilean waters were the main reason for the rather disappointing catch. Also Peruvian production was relatively low. The bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) scare overshadowed the fishmeal market in Europe in 2001. In early 2001 the EU prohibited the use of animal proteins in all animal feeds with the exception of milk powder and fishmeal. The use of the latter was prohibited in ruminant's diets only. In most plants in the EU, feed for non ruminants is produced in the same line as ruminants food, since the EU legislation resulted to lower fishmeal use in pig and poultry diet too. Fishmeal prices are expected to increase due to good demand. Peru and Chile lodged their complaint with WTO SPS Committee (October 2001) to persuade the EU to lift the current restrictions on fishmeal usage.
The overall climate on the fish oil market was good in 2001, with strong improvements in prices. Fish oil production in 2001 was slightly below 2000. There is little availability of fish oil on the market at present. Competing vegetable oils seems to be in shorter supply than initially forecast, and their prices are expected to move up. As a result, a further increase in fish oil prices is likely.
The use of fish in food aid continues to decline. In 2000, some 9 000 tonnes were donated which compares to 21 300 tonnes in 1989. Canned fish is the main product, while edible fat reported a dramatic decline in recent years. As in previous years, developing countries are practically not tapped as a source of fish for food aid whereas Norway continues to be the main supplier of fish for food aid, despite some decline over the last years.
Major ongoing issues in international trade in fishery products
- the change in quality control requirements in the main importing countries and their implication for suppliers;
- the concept of risk assessment and other safety measures as potential trade barriers;
- the concern of consumers about food safety;
- the concern of the general public about overexploitation of resources; and
- environmental concerns with regard to aquaculture;
- labelling and traceability; and
- the new WTO negotiations on international trade as launched by the WTO Ministerial Meeting in Doha in 2001 and the implications for trade in fisheries products.