By Charles Tjatindi
Despite a good showing by developing countries in marketing and promoting seafood products on the international market, a lot needs to be done to ensure all developing nations benefit from their fisheries sectors.
The Deputy Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Killus Nguvauva, said this when he officiated at a two-day workshop on international fish trends at the coastal town of Swakopmund recently.
Nguvauva said although developing countries have been at the forefront of providing a number of seafood exports, especially the developed world, many are still being sidelined and exploited as a result of increasingly complex trading conditions in the major markets.
“I argue that some developing nations are still being exploited. Are the subtle and intricate agreements between trading blocs and sovereign nations fair, beneficial or destructive?
“It is my feeling that the result is still exploitation of the developing countries by rich and strong nations,” said Nguvauva.
He said globalisation has seen the growth of the seafood trade in developing countries such as Namibia and exports to the developed world have increased significantly.
For the last 30 years, the developed world has been a net importer of seafood, while the developing world has been a net exporter. Hence, 51 percent of the world seafood exports were credited to the developing world in 2004, Nguvauva said.
Nguvauva said globalisation has boosted international trade and made previously unreachable markets accessible for business exchange – many developing countries have little or no understanding of how the seafood industry operates – and often have too high hopes.
“When many in the developing countries achieved independence, they were optimistic about the future – naturally. They thought that now that they have ownership over resources, they would get a fair share of the cake.
“Unfortunately, they knew too little about how the world turns – a rude awakening indeed. That’s the dilemma of poverty and disempowerment,” he said.
Nguvauva said some standards and requirements introduced by the developing world have been of great benefit to developing countries such as Namibia, for example, the health and hygienic standards Namibia has upheld.
“We cannot compromise the health of fish consumers. In Namibia, we have seafood processors who are, objectively judged, in a world class.
Some of our processing plants are far better than most of those found in Europe, Asia or the US. We have taken the issues of health, hygiene and quality seriously.”
According to the Deputy Minister, developing countries have been finding it difficult to deal with other conditions being imposed by the big trading blocs, which have proven to be challenging. He noted that big trading blocs at times invent offending strategies that are meant to distort trade and allow for unfair competition.
“There are globalisation issues that affect us that we know we can do nothing about, such as the changing structure of trade and the ever-growing power of the multi-nationals, especially supermarket chains…the changing structure of the market represents a challenge to us,” Nguvauva noted.
The workshop is a joint initiative by the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, The Commonwealth and the Marketing Information and Technical Advisory Services for the Fisheries Industry in Southern Africa (INFOSA).
It brings together fishing industry representatives, senior Government officials and experts in the field to deliberate on the opportunities and challenges facing the Namibian seafood industry.
National and international experts attending the workshop include Jonathan Banks, a representative of AC Nielsen, one of the leading consumer research companies, the US representative of the Food and Drug Administration, Dr Brett Koonse, while Sudari Pawiro, a marketing Information Officer of INFOFISH represents the Asian market. Other experts included representatives from the European Union, one of Namibia’s major trading partners.
The workshop ends today.