Marketing strategies for aquaculture products
The present organization of marketing as described earlier is to meet the needs of a relatively small-scale industry. The extent of regional and international trade in aquaculture is difficult to analyse because of lack of appropriate documented statistics. The main internationally traded aquaculture products are shrimps, salmons and trouts, molluscs and sea-weeds. Tilapia, seabass, seabream and groupers also figure in international trade. Marine shrimps, both wild-caught and cultured, are the most prominent products that have been affected by social and economic conditions. With about 800000 tons coming from aquaculture, farmed shrimp has acted as a stabilizing factor. Among the finfish, international trade of farmed salmons has increased to about 60000 tons in less than a decade. As production volumes have increased, competition within the market and costs of production have decreased, with salmon becoming a relatively mediumpriced product in international markets.
Quality and food safety concerns have made both consumers and regulators review critically the current system of food inspection where samples of the final product are analysed for generic hygiene. As a result most governments particularly of developed countries adopted a preventive system called hazard analysis critical control points (HACCP). ‘Prevention’ determines the HACCP-based regulation. In order to harmonize the national programmes, international guidelines, recommendations and standards, agreements have been reached to provide regulations related to the trade of the General Agreements on Tariff and Trade (GATT).
Agreements of Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) (GATT, 1994) introduced the concepts and harmonize sanitary and phytosanitary measures on a wider basis, combining standards, guidelines and recommendations. The same agreement is established by the Codex Alimentarias Commission (CAC) relating to food additives, veterinary drug and pesticides residues, methods analysis and sampling, and guidelines for hygiene practice.
All developed and a large number of developing countries have taken up regulatory HACCP systems. The basic regulations in the US, which are mandatory, require the HACCP system in fish and fishery products. This is centred on processing and does not apply to aquaculture production. HACCP-based regulations apply to harvested fish.
Member states of the European Community are subject to both European and national legislation. Considerable development in the laws affecting aquaculture has taken place in the last decade in European Community countries, including both final production and aquaculture practices. The HACCP–based regulations in Europe introduced ‘own health checks’. EC regulations related to fish products are covered in Council Directive 91/493/EEC that lays
down health conditions for the production and placing on the market of fishery products. This ‘family’ of regulations is aimed basically at the control of fish diseases. They are only complementary to HACCP-based regulations relating to the prevention of human diseases. The regulations concerning aquaculture do not imply compliance with fish safety regulations. However, there are no contradictions in their complementarity, and coordination will surely increase with time.
All matters that relate to safety, quality and trade rely on traceability. In aquaculture this could mean following the history of a production batch from the point of sale back to the hatcheries, knowing the distribution, harvesting, packaging, processing and marketing, which involves documentation that can seldom be produced by an unorganized sector like aquaculture.
With growing concern about food safety, increasing efforts are being made to improve the quality of food that is placed in the market, which includes aquacultural products. International codex standards cover aquaculture products, and the introduction of mandatory HACCP requirements for exports to the United States and EC in 1997 has already had a great impact on trade in several aquaculture products. Some countries have developed comprehensive standards for products. In other countries individual aquaculture producers have undertaken voluntary certificates (ISO 9000) for control as well as marketing purposes. Such certification appears to be increasingly required for entry into markets such as multiple retail stores. Actions to assure best practice, including traceability throughout the entire supply chain, are inevitable for assuring both the credibility and the sustainability of the aquaculture sector.