Servicing the aquaculture sector: role of state and private sectors

The term “services”, according to OECD, covers “a heterogeneous range of intangible products and activities that are difficult to encapsulate within a simple definition. Services are also often difficult to separate from goods with which they may be associated in varying degrees”. In aquaculture, such services encompass a range of different products and activities that can be broadly assigned, albeit with some overlap, to the following service categories: (a) traditional “extension”, (b) financial, (c) market, (d) business, (e) input provision, (f) infrastructure and transport, (g) technical, (h) harvest and post-harvest processing, (i) research and (j) information.

The reality is that the aquaculture sector has and needs a diverse range of services that are important from planning through to operation of aquaculture enterprises, and throughout the whole “value chain” of aquaculture from input supplies and production systems, to post-harvest handling, trading and processing, marketing and consumption. They are relevant, in various ways, for all types of aquaculture systems and species, at all scale, from subsistence farming through the spectrum of aquaculture enterprises from micro and small-scale household-managed farms, to medium and large-scale business. Services have been and always will be an essential part of aquaculture development, and successful aquaculture development requires that the services needed are in place.

Public and private sectors, including non-governmental agencies (NGOs), are all involved in provision of aquaculture services, although roles and responsibilities differ. Services are provided at various levels, from local community level or farmer organisations through to large multinational business, regional and international organisations. They are delivered in a multitude of ways and technologies, from direct interactions between a community-based “extension” officer and a small-scale farmer, to globally managed market information services using the latest Internet and communication technologies. They may also delivered by institutions specialising in aquaculture, or public and private organisations engaged more widely in other sectors.

Growth in aquaculture over the past 10 years, under the influence of a range of global drivers, has changed not only the nature of services required but also the way in which these services are delivered. In less-developed and newly emerging aquaculture countries, there are still considerable gaps in services, particularly in rural areas. In others, market and competitive pressures, such as the recent moves towards certification and food safety and quality assurance, have created new requirements for services for aquaculture.

There have also been some major changes in the way that services are delivered to aquaculture farmers, and opportunities emerging for improvements in addressing new needs, and filling existing gaps, particularly with the rising role of communication technologies and Internet. Investments in capacity building and easier access to information and better communication have contributed to rising capacity in Asia for management of the sector and delivery of services both in the public and private sectors. Within Europe, on-line sales and traceability services are providing new means for distance selling but evidently require adaptation of the way in which sales and marketing are viewed by the operator. Market requirements and disease problems have increased the need for both the public and the private sector to develop technical and analytical services for aquatic animal health management and food safety assurance. In many countries, the government role in extension services has reduced during the past 10 years, while the role of private business has increased. Many rural farmers though still lack access to the necessary services, a problem widely felt throughout the agriculture sector in many developing nations.

The Bangkok Declaration does not refer specifically to services as such, but services are directly and indirectly referred to in various elements of the Strategy for Aquaculture Development Beyond 2000. In general, there has been progress in many aspects of service provision; however, it is questionable whether “improving the capacity of institutions to develop and implement strategies targeting poor people” as stated in the Strategy has improved, or that the approaches tried to address such capacity deficits have been widely effective. What are the future expectations for the topic?

Future growth of aquaculture will require improved services and a better coverage of the sector, with investments and responsibilities involving both public and private sectors. Regardless of species and production systems, better integration to market supply chains will require a rapid intensification of wide range of services. Environmental sustainability issues, such as accessing sustainable feedstuff sources, will require better and more comprehensive solutions, linked to environmental and fishery sciences, agriculture and biotechnology. Genetics and husbandry in general are a fundamental basis for aquaculture development and will continue to require investments in research and technical services. Gaps in service provision for micro and small aquaculture enterprises, largely involving households, also need to be addressed. Services may be aquaculture specialised or likely in rural areas of many countries with large rural populations, may be part of a spectrum of advisory services. More business-oriented solutions will be needed for sustainability and accountability.

The paper will provide suggestions on the way forward for further discussion at the Conference, including the need for continued public and private-sector investment in services, the urgent need to address uneven provision and access to services for micro and small-scale aquaculture enterprises, the importance of business-oriented approaches and encouraging further investment by the private sector in services, and the need for government policy orientation towards improving and continued public investment. Considerable opportunities for cooperation still exist in service provision, and the panel discussions and conference debates will hopefully identify new ideas and partnerships that will provide the basis for moving forward.


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Global Conference on Aquaculture 2010

The conference was organised by FAO, the Thai Department of Fisheries and NACA and held in the Mövenpick Resort and Spa, Phuket, Thailand, 22-25 September. The conference was the third in a series of aquaculture development conferences, following on from the Conference on Aquaculture in the Third Millennium held in Bangkok 2000, and the FAO Technical Conference on Aquaculture, held in Kyoto 1976.