By Charles V Tjatindi
Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) countries are urged to introduce innovative strategies to keep up with the demand for fish supplies abroad. Although global fish consumption rates seem to be favouring the region, experts believe that the continent could lag behind other regions if the situation is not addressed.
A recent publication by the FISHINFOnetwork on the continent’s fishing industry revealed that the low fish consumption rates in major fishing nations within SADC could hamper those countries’ prospects of growth in that sector.
The FISHINFOnetwork is an organisation that monitors and provides information on trends within the fisheries sector.
One strategy that can be utilised to address the situation, according to the publication, would be improved handling and processing methods, which could reduce present high post-harvest losses of biomass.
It is estimated that some 30-40 percent of all fish landed in African countries is lost because of spoilage due to inadequate handling and processing methods. The continent has also been advised to look into the expansion of the aquaculture industry, of particularly low-cost species like tilapia and catfish.
“These species are already affordable to the African consumer and a significant increase in farmed production could benefit Africans,” said the report.
With an estimated population of 192 million people, the SADC region is one of the largest exporters of fish in Africa. The main exporters in this region are Namibia and South Africa, with the latter also being the largest importer of fish in the southern part of Africa. The Seychelles, being an island nation has by far the highest consumption of fish, of all the SADC countries. In 1993 the consumption in Seychelles amounted to 61kg per person per year. In earlier years, the Seychelles had registered even higher levels of consumption of fish, and the peak year was 1981 when consumption reached 74.5 kg per person per year.
Mauritius, which is also an island nation, is the second largest per capita consumer of fish in SADC. In 2003 consumption was 18,7 kg per person per year, but it has been above 20ǟ