Opinion: Saurabh Bandyopadhyay, Laxmi Joshi and Nijara Deka.
Fish contributes to ensuring domestic food and nutritional security and India registered a per capita yearly consumption of over 13 kg in 2022-23. In addition, more varieties of fish are available for consumption by households through expanding market networks. However, Indian consumption is still below the international standard. Augmenting the level of consumption is a major challenge that needs critical policy support.
The current per capita consumption, though lower as compared to the international estimate (OECD &FAO) of 20.5 kg per capita (2019-20) has a high potential to catch up to the predicted level of 21.4 kg per capita by 2031.
The National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) has conducted a comprehensive study on the fishery sector for the Department of Fishery, Government of India in 2022-23. The study mainly focussed on the demand side aspects of the Indian market. A few interesting points that emerged from the study are:
Monthly consumption of fish per household has shown a quantum leap in ten years from 2.66 kg in 2011- 12 (NSS 68th Round) to 4.99 kg in 2022-23 (NCAER).
The NCAER household survey covered 24 states in 105 districts, covering around 13 thousand households through detailed primary enumeration. Per capita consumption of fish from the NCAER survey result provides an important insight into the penetration and deepness of the consumption of fish as food in India. It is observed that consumption of the fish-eating population has grown significantly to over 13 kg per capita per annum in 2022-23 from 7kg in 2011-12 (NSS).
The current per capita consumption, though lower as compared to the international estimate (OECD &FAO) of 20.5 kg per capita (2019-20) has a high potential to catch up to the predicted level of 21.4 kg per capita by 2031. Since India has high growth potential in the coming decade, there is a possibility that per capita fish consumption will catch up to the international standard.
In the last five years, around 28% of households reported an increase in the consumption of fish. Around 56% of the households reported that the availability of more variety of fish helps grow consumption. A lower price range (19%) comes next. In this respect, market linkage plays the most crucial role.
Monthly household consumption expenditure on fish in proportion to total food expenditure has gone up to around 16.8% in 2022-23 as compared to 7.6% in 2011-12
Challenges of Enhancing Consumption:
Marketing is the point at which the farmer’s products such as fish leave him with a return called income. Marketing of fish involves all the activities in the flow of fish or fish products from the farmer to the consumers.
Solutions related to Marketing Linkage
The respondents frequently consider the marketing of fish products as one of their major challenges in fish farming. This is because while the farmers are able to identify poor prices, lack of transport, lack of ready market, and high post-harvest losses as the challenges, they are often poorly equipped to identify potential solutions. Successful marketing requires learning new skills, new techniques and new ways of obtaining and using information appropriately.
Marketing is the point at which the farmer’s products such as fish leave him with a return called income. Marketing of fish involves all the activities in the flow of fish or fish products from the farmer to the consumers. It includes various operations required to move the fish or fish products from the producer to the consumer.
The major recommendations that emerged are as follows.
The modernmechanism needs to be focussed on adopting the Fish Market and Price Information System (FMPIS), a web-based platform that provides real-time or near real-time information on fish prices, availability, and other market data to stakeholders in the seafood industry. This can include fishermen, fish farmers, seafood processors, wholesalers, retailers, and consumers.
FMPIS can help improve the efficiency and transparency of seafood markets by providing timely and accurate market information to all participants. This can reduce the information asymmetry that often exists between different market actors, and can also help to reduce price volatility. The results of a survey on the prevalence of the Fish Market and Price Information System (FMPIS) in a fishery market can have important implications for the future prospects of that sector. Some potential implications of these results for the future prospects of the fishery sector could include:
Limited transparency and efficiency: If a significant proportion of fishermen do not have access to FMPIS, this could limit the transparency and efficiency of the fishery sector. This could result in higher costs reduced competitiveness for producers, and potentially higher prices for consumers.
Reduced profitability: Without access to real-time or near real-time market data, fishermen may have difficulty making informed decisions about the sale and purchase of fish. This could result in reduced profits or increased financial risk.
Increased risk of exploitation: Without access to market information, fishermen may be more vulnerable to exploitation by buyers or intermediaries who may offer them lower prices than they could otherwise get in a more transparent market. This could result in reduced profits and increased financial risk for fishermen.
Limited data for policy-making: Without access to comprehensive market data, it may be difficult for policy- makers to make informed decisions about the management and regulation of seafood markets. This could result in policies that are less effective at promoting sustainable, efficient, and transparent markets.
Integrating the Use of Technology to Enhance Demand
The integration of technology throughout the marketing value chain could play a key role in easing the availability of the varieties of fish in the consumption space.Modern processing and cold storage facilities have improved the preservation of fish quality during transportation.
E-commerce platforms and online marketplaces could connect fish farmers directly to buyers, thus expanding market opportunities. In this respect, the fishery sector could harness vast potential of AI applications to reduce wastageby identifying area of demand and increase efficiency by providing competitive options to consumers looking for itemized sources of protein.
However, challenges in providing inexpensive and dependable technology to small and mid-sized fish farmers are daunting and require substantive intervention in the form of investment, training and awareness for an enabling atmosphere with the cooperation of the Government, research entities and private organizations.
The authors are Senior Fellow, Fellow, and Associate Fellow at NCAER. Views expressed are personal.