COVID-19 IMPACT SURVEY MAY 2020
With regional and international food and agricultural value chain severely disrupted, seafood is caught in the eye of the COVID-19 storm. The market is expected to lose steam before recovering to reach a projected global market size of US$138.7 billion by 2027. Global food supply chains are severely disrupted as governments move swiftly to implement trade restrictions to protect domestic food supplies, a move that has and still continues to impact countries dependent on food imports. Along with several other food products, export revenues of even seafood are declining as countries close borders and halt trade. Fish and aquatic food value chain is currently witnessing a medley of challenges ranging from shutdown of operations, changing consumer demands, market access and logistical problems, and transportation and border restrictions. Supply chain interruptions caused by disruptions in transportation, trade and labor have halted both fish farming and commercial fishing operations. Delayed stocking of aquaculture feed and systems is impacting production with rising prices threatening to be a key fallout.
Commercial fishing fleets are tied up as part of the restrictions negatively impacting commercial fishing which is a major part of the global food system. The value chain for fish and fish products is labor intensive and all of these factors discussed above are impacting food security and nutrition for populations that rely on fish for animal protein and essential micronutrients. Misconception and misinformation published in media of seafood being a carrier of COVID-19 virus and a potential route of transmission to humans is leading to sudden decline in consumption. Closure of restaurants and hotels, which represent large buyers of fish and seafood, has impacted sales significantly. Lower demand, setbacks to exports and higher costs of operations are chipping off profit margins of fisheries and seafood companies. The entire fishing industry comprising open catch, culturing, processing, preserving, storing, transporting, marketing and retiling of fish or fish products has been impacted. Unless immediate corrective measures and policy changes are made, seafood a critical part of food security goals, will become less affordable for the poor under the current scenario.
With the easing of the lockdown restrictions, the market will however regain lost growth momentum. Seafood will remain a healthy food option and an indulgent treat and mainstay of salads in luxury dinners and food parties. Continued developments in aquaculture and the ensuing availability of wider product choices will spur growth, alongside the growing focus of governments worldwide to utilize fisheries to achieve food security goals. The focus on reducing fish waste and losses and rise in sustainable and responsible fisheries management will positively benefit growth in the market by ensuring easy physical and economic access to sufficient, safe, nutritious and affordable seafood products. Few of the market forces at play during the pre-pandemic period included advancements in freezing technologies and cold chain logistics and the ensuing popularity of chilled and frozen seafood; robust demand for prepared and preserved/cured seafood options among consumers on the lookout for safe and convenient food options; strong revenue potential of fishmeal and fish oil; establishment of seafood only restaurants and expanding varieties of gourmet seafood dishes and the resulting healthy growth of farmed seafood in the foodservice industry. Over the last decade, Asia-Pacific has emerged into a major market, supported by factors such as presence of developing Asian countries with economic dependence on fisheries exports; availability of vast coastlines, rivers and inland water resources rich in marine and fresh water fishery resource; growing consumer preference for protein rich foods; and increasing per capita consumption of fish among the growing base of affluent middle class population.