|Handling, Processing and Marketing of Fish in Bangladesh - Part 1 (NRI)|
|Section 5: Conclusions|
The main problems affecting the marketing of fish in Bangladesh are as follows:
(a) The isolation of many fishing communities from their wholesale landing facilities, coupled with poor transport and lack of ice.
(b) Poor physical facilities for marketing of fish (i.e. Ianding centres, wholesale and retail markets).
(c) Widespread ignorance of the factors affecting fish quality and ways of overcoming them.
These problems give rise to substantial losses to the economy of Bangladesh. Quantification of such losses is very difficult without a series of detailed investigations, but the following estimates provide an indication of the order of magnitude of the problem:
at least 35,200 tonnes
discarded by-catch and
(4.6% of the catch)
dried fish loss
US$ 96 million
US$ 2 million
US$ 7 million +
It should be noted that the quantitative loss is equivalent to 340 grams per annum per head of population in Bangladesh; elimination of such a loss would allow consumption per head to be raised from the present 7.6 kg per capita to nearly 8.0 kg per capita.
This picture of quantitative and qualitative losses contrasts with the conclusion of a recent ADB report (Aquatic Farms Ltd., 1986) according to which prices vary little with quality and losses are not large. It should however be noted that the growing importance of fish culture will ease post-harvest problems rather than exacerbate them. Cultured fish can be harvested as and when required, avoiding the accumulation of unmarketable gluts, while arrangements for icing and packaging can be planned in advance of harvesting. All this tends to minimise post-harvest losses.
As discussed in Section 3.9, fish marketing is almost exclusively in the hands of the private sector, which is considered efficient compared to alternative systems which might be established. Nevertheless there is scope for increased competition in distribution, particularly at the assembly phase of the marketing chain.
The scale of the losses and the scarcity of fish in Bangladesh make it particularly important to improve the way in which fish is marketed. As stated in Section 2.9, Bangladesh will have difficulty maintaining its present level of per capita fish supplies over the next two decades, let alone improving it, and this makes it all the more necessary to reduce physical losses and to increase the flow of fish from producing areas to consumers.
Measures of the following kind are needed:
(a) Assistance targetted specifically at remote fishing communities in the Bay of Bengal and the beef fishing areas. In some inland areas, the building of roads is necessary to improve market access. Fishermen should receive instruction on improved methods of handling and curing fish, there being simple preventative methods which will substantially reduce curing losses. Fishermen or fishing communities should also be helped to acquire motorised collector boats, mini ice-plants (where economically justified) and processing facilities. Of course the effective use of such plant and equipment by communities or groups of fishermen requires that they be suitably organised and managerially capable, for this reason careful attention should be paid to social development aspects.
(b) An improved system of mandatory inspection for seafood exports as discussed in Section 4.6.
(c) The building of a series of modern landing facilities and wholesale markets in all the major landing and trading centres throughout Bangladesh. These would be hygienic and require less physical handling of the fish.
(d) Training and extension in improved handling and processing addressed at all those involved in the handling of fish, including fishermen, traders, processors, export packers and municipal authorities. The first priority should be to improve the quality of exported fish, given its high unit value, but training should subsequently be given to those involved in the domestic trade. Training should be linked with research into improved handling which is discussed under the next sub-heading.
(e) Research. There is scope for considerable research in the post-harvest fishery sector. For example, research is required to better quantify the postharvest losses described above. Another exercise is required to determine the optimal use of shrimp by-catch which is presently discarded at sea. A number of subjects need to be considered such as the design and operation of shrimp trawlers, the use of collector boats and alternative uses of the by-catch. Research is also appropriate for evaluating improved methods of handling and processing of fresh fish, e.g. new forms of packaging and insulation.
(f) Further suggestions arising from this report include: restrictions on the number of new seafood packing plants that may be built, together with a prohibition on exports by companies which do not own such plants; improvements in port facilities and reefer services (see comments in Section 4.2); improvements in the quality of packaging materials available to exporters.
For Bangladesh to undertake such a programme the Government, as well as cooperating private organisations, will need considerable technical and financial support from outside. Much of this support would consist of training Bangladeshis in fish quality, handling, processing techniques, etc. It was noted by the authors that there were a number of enthusiastic graduates who had already received some training in these areas, often overseas, but that they tended to lack sufficient practical experience. It is therefore preferable that most training be of the practical hands-on kind, which can best be provided by in-country courses. At the same time there is a need to improve the training capability of the universities and the fisheries training centre at Chandpur, which has recently come under the newly created Fisheries Training Institute.
The main economic benefits from implementing measures of the kind listed above can be summed up as follows:
· Consumers benefit from a greater availability of fish, particularly fresh fish, better quality and lower prices. More fish is available because of a reduction in physical losses, and because the more efficient marketing system increases incentives to producers. At the same time less fish is downgraded into cured product, but instead reaches the consumer in its higher valued fresh form.
· Fishermen benefit by increased income from their traditional activity.
· Communities in the vicinity of modern landing/wholesale centres benefit from less pollution and congestion.
· All those involved in the export trade, including suppliers and intermediary processors, benefit from increased proceeds, with corresponding improvements occuring in the balance of payments and tax revenues.
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