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FAO and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) have initiated a comprehensive value-chain analysis of international fish trade with an impact assessment of the small-sale sector in developing countries (1). The aim is to identify ways to improve food security for local populations through more informed policy decisions.


Background: Fish exports a major source of income for developing countries

Fish exports and trade is a major source of income for developing countries. They now represent close to 50% of global fish exports with their annual net export revenues exceeding US$ 25 billion. Jobs are created in production, processing and trade, and local food-security is strengthened through the nutritional contribution of fish to human consumption.

In fish production, a large share is carried out by the small-scale sector. It is therefore of crucial importance to arrive at polices that safeguard the interests of the small-scale producers not only by enabling them to access international markets but also to obtain prices and margins that let them achieve long-term sustainability from an economic, social and biological resource perspective.

Project objective: Improved knowledge of value-chain dynamics

The objective of the project is to achieve a better understanding of the dynamics of relevant value-chains in international fish trade and arrive at policy recommendations. The project will analyse the distribution of benefits in the value-chain and the linkages between the relative benefits obtained and the design of the chain. Comparisons will be made between domestic, regional and international value-chains with the view to understand better how developing countries can increase the value derived from their fishery resources.

Case studies: Small-scale sector in 10 developing countries and in 2 developed countries

The study will in part build on available value-chain analyses carried out by other institutions, including those concerning developed countries which will serve as a reference of comparison with value-chains in developing countries.

The study will through the use of about 10 case studies in selected developing countries and two studies from the small-scale sector in developed countries analyse the factors that determine prices and margins throughout the value-chain as well as the distribution of benefits among the various stakeholders. Aquaculture and inland fisheries will be considered in addition to capture fisheries.

Particular attention will be given to processing in order to compare the difference in value creation from the export of unprocessed and processed fish.

Modalities: FAO and 3 external experts to implement the project

A group of three international experts will be crucial in the implementation of the study. The case studies will be carried out by national consultants.

Dissemination of results:

The results of the project report will be disseminated through complementary activities of FAO and presented at FAO conferences such as the COFI Sub-Committee on Fish Trade. The results will be used in follow-up work at the field-level and included in specific projects benefiting small-scale operators.

Further dissemination will be carried out at the local level in the countries of study. Particular attention will be given to providing feedback to all local informants, interviewees and their communities.

Study to be published in 2011

The results of the study will be presented through various regional and sub-regional workshops and the final report published by the end of 2011.

Further information:


Dr. Audun Lem


Lead consultant:

Professor Trond Bjorndal

University of Portsmouth


International consultants:

Dr. Madan Dey

University of Arkansas


Dr. Achini De Silva

Sabaragamuwa University of Sri Lanka

International steering committee:


Blessing Mapfumo, INFOSA, Namibia;

Richard Abila, Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute;

Sebastian Mathew, International Collective in Support of Fishworkers, India;

Rune Castberg, NORAD;

Audun Lem, FAO

(1) This is a follow-up to a 2004 study on the impact of international fish trade on local food security, published as FAO Fisheries Technical Paper 456


Visit the project website at 

A note on the methodology for the studies