FAO: Farmed fish price increases to outpace those for wild species

Increased demand for seafood and slowing growth of fisheries and aquaculture production will see prices increase by almost a quarter over the next 10 years, projects the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Its report “The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2020,” (or SOFIA 2020), expects total fish production to rise from its current level of 179 million metric tons (MT) to around 204 million MT in 2030. While this will represent an increase of some 15 percent, by comparison, for the period 2007-2018 that rate of growth was a much more dynamic 27 percent.

SOFIA offers that aquaculture will continue to be the driving force behind the growth in global fish production, extending a decades-old trend to contribute 109 million MT in 2030, an increase of 32 percent or 26 million MT over 2018. Yet, it anticipates the average annual growth rate of aquaculture should slow from 4.6 percent in 2007–2018 to 2.3 percent for 2019–2030. This, it believes, will be in line with tougher environmental regulations; reduced water availability and suitable production locations; increased outbreaks of aquatic animal diseases; and decreasing aquaculture productivity gains.

It further expects that new fisheries and aquaculture reforms and policies to be implemented by China as a continuation of its Thirteenth Five-Year Plan (2016–2020) will slow up the country’s fisheries and aquaculture growth. This will stimulate higher prices in China, but with repercussions felt all around the world.

In addition to being the world’s leading fish producer, China has been the main exporter since 2002 and, since 2011, the third-ranked importing country in terms of value.

Overall, farmed fish prices will climb 24 percent by 2030, while wild-capture fish will increase by 23 percent, with the FAO explaining that on the demand side, factors influencing this trend will include improved income, population growth, and higher meat prices. On the supply side, stable capture fisheries production, slowing growth in aquaculture production, and cost increase for inputs such as feed, energy, and oil are likely to play a role. Indeed, it forecasts that fishmeal and fish oil prices will increase by 30 percent and 13 percent, respectively, in nominal terms by 2030, as a result of strong global demand.

The higher prices at the production level, coupled with high demand of fish for human consumption, will stimulate an estimated 22 percent increase in the average price of internationally traded fish by 2030 relative to 2018, it states.

However, in real terms, and adjusted for inflation, it assumes that all average prices will decline slightly over the projection period, while remaining “relatively high.” It also suggests that for individual fishery commodities, price volatility could be more pronounced due to supply and demand fluctuations. And because aquaculture is expected to represent a higher share of world fish supply, the FAO suggests that it could have a stronger impact on prices in national and international fish markets.

According to the FAO Fish Price Index (FPI), overall fish prices have followed an upward trend in recent years due to limitations on supply growth, particularly for capture fisheries, and continued strong demand worldwide. In 2019 though, international fish prices were an average 3 percent lower, compared with the previous year. This was primarily due to price declines for many important farmed species, including shrimp, salmon, pangasius, catfish, and tilapia, but also for canned tuna, as a consequence of supply outpacing demand.

Photo courtesy of PhotoVisions/Shutterstock


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