Regional consultation on responsible production and use of feeds in aquaculture

FAO, NACA and the Thai Department of Fisheries convened a Regional Consultation Responsible Production and Use of Feed and Feed Ingredients for Sustainable Growth of Aquaculture in Asia-Pacific in Bangkok, 7-9 March 2017.

The objective of the consultation was to review the current status of aquaculture feed production and use, demand and supply, sourcing of ingredients, government policies and institutional support, ongoing progress and development gaps. The consultation also aimed to put forward regional strategies and a plan of action to promote responsible utilisation of feed and feed ingredients through sharing of available knowledge, technological innovations and scaling up successful practices and further research and technology development.

Aquaculture has been one of the fastest growing food production sectors over the last thirty years, globally, with annual production increasing an average of 8 percent per year. Currently, Asian aquaculture supplies some 60 percent of global food fish needs while contributing significantly to the livelihoods for rural and urban populations. As the industry has intensified it has become increasingly dependent on the use of artificial feeds (as opposed to natural productivity) to increase yield. As a result, the proportion of aquaculture production dependent on artificial feeding has increased by 97.9 percent over the last ten years alone.

The main issues discussed in the consultation were:

  • Development and use of alternatives of fishmeal and other high cost feed ingredients in aquaculture.
  • Traceability of aquaculture products in relation to feed and feed ingredients.
  • Promotion of cost-effective aquaculture feed made of locally available feed ingredients.
  • Innovation in aquaculture farming and feeding practices for reduced feed costs and environment impacts at farm level.

The rapid growth of “fed” production systems has resulted in a drastic increase in demand for commercial feeds. As a result, the aquaculture feed industry has also grown rapidly in the past two decades, with total production of industrial compound feed increasing from 7.6 million tonnes in 1995 to 40.2 million tonnes in 2010. The increased use of feed has greatly contributed to production efficiency and quality of products, and enabled farmers to better meet market requirements.

On the other hand, rapid increase in use of feed in aquaculture has also caused a number of issues which may threaten the sustainable growth of the industry. The major issues include the following:

  • Increased feed cost has caused significant reduction of profit margin in production of many important aquaculture commodities. Feed cost often accounts for 70 percent for commodities that entirely depend on artificial feed. This problem is largely caused by high cost of feed that is often non-locally produced and utilised with poor efficiency. This problem has been exacerbated by the steady decline in the market price of aquaculture products, which are in predicted to remain in decline until 2020.
  • Asian feed production has become overly dependent on externally sourced feed ingredients, and this has resulted in significant problem in supply and costs.
  • In order to sustain capture fisheries and maintain marine ecosystem functions and services, there has been increasing effort to combat IUU fishing globally. It is believed considerable proportion of products from IUU fishing is used for aquaculture purpose in the region. Responsible sourcing of feed ingredients free from IUU fishing is likely to become a certification requirement in international trade of aquaculture products.

Audio recordings of the technical presentations made at the workshop are in preparation, and will shortly be available for download or online access from the NACA website. The report of the meeting are in preparation and will be published in coming months as an FAO publication.