New Project Aims to Give Small-Scale Fish Farmers Supermarket Shelf Space

18 July 2016, at 1:00am

GLOBAL - A new project being funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), will focus on providing better access for small-scale fish farmers to high value retail markets.

Focusing on Bangladesh, Thailand and Viet Nam, one aim of the 'Supermarket supported area-based management and certification of aquaculture in Southeast Asia' (SUPERSEAS) project will be to foster dialogue with the supermarket sector to explore how vulnerable producers can secure supply through this valuable channel.

Private certification schemes increasingly regulate aquaculture exports and consumers increasingly demand to see the better transparency that they offer.

Certification schemes emerged in part to mitigate some of the negative effects of aquaculture’s rapid expansion including environmental degradation, social conflicts and irresponsible trade practices. However the cost of entry for small-scale farmers, making up the majority of production, has been prohibitive, denying them shelf space in the world’s increasingly important supermarket sector.

Recognising that the risk of any one farm is dependent on the quality of the wider environment within which that farm is embedded, SuperSeas will explore the concept of area based management as a means of capitalizing on the collective power of a number of farmers to better cope with the demands of these certification schemes.

Previous efforts have concentrated at the farm-level, which fails to account for or regulate wider landscape-level sustainability issues related to feed, seed, habitat and water quality. An area based management approach can integrate and coordinate farm-level environmental and social issues at a wider ecological scale.

Michael Phillips, Program Leader, Aquaculture, WorldFish: “In addition to representing a more inclusive business model that allows for the greater involvement of a wider range of producers, area-based management and certification may also offer opportunities for domestic and regional retailers, in addition to global retailers in the US and EU, to reduce the cost of sustainable sourcing, and verifying traceability. Such models hold great potential to reduce social pressures of small holders associated with economic vulnerability and food insecurity.”

Led by a consortium headed by Wageningen University and Research with WorldFish, FAO, Mekong Delta Development and Research Institute (MDI), Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP), GIZ, BRAC, Prince of Songkla University and the sustainable trade initiative (IDH) and others as partners, SuperSeas aims for a more inclusive model for fish farmers and to level the playing field for them when it comes to entering international markets.