Marketing: A key part of the fisheries cycle

Small-scale fish marketing development should be aimed at increasing both fish consumption and fishermen’s income, as well as higher foreign exchange earnings, if potential export markets exist.  (FAO 2015).

The development of the small-scale sector has to be holistic. In that it should also promote wealth generation for the sustainable livelihoods of the fisher communities. Marketing in the sector is one way this wealth can be generated.

In most small-scale fishing communities in developing countries, the traditional fish marketing system is characterised by fishermen landing their catches on scattered beaches, normally in small quantities. The fishermen have little bargain power in the markets, with most marketing activities being financed by fish traders who also function as a source of informal credit, providing necessary cash for the fishermen’s family needs, especially during the extended seasonal periods of limited catch and income. (FAO,2015)

As a result, fishermen tend to be dependent on the marketer to sell their fish. The fisherman does not have contact with the fish “buyer”/consumer thus leaving the fishermen obtaining the least price for their catch.

The small-scale fisheries policy will group fishers into legal entities such as co-operatives. Cooperative will have a bargaining power and market opportunities will be easy to access.

Yet, while the small-scale fisheries policy is not yet implemented, how can fishing communities access marketing opportunities, increasing their income and gain profit for their development?

This week, we asked some CLSA members: what can small-scale fishing communities do now in order to access the market and get a higher price for their catches and/or products?

Bethuel Sithole from Coastal Links SA in KwaZulu Natal says that they are not allowed to sell their fish, but that fish as a source of protein is always in great demand.

“When the small-scale fishing (SSF) policy comes into being and we will be able to sell, we will sell our fish to the local people and local shops,” says Sithole.

At the moment Sithole and other fishers get up very early in the mornings, before the sun rises, to go and catch fish.

Sometimes it takes two hours, other times it can take up to six hours to catch his 10 fish that he is allowed to catch with his subsistence-fishing permit.

Should the SSF policy come into operation, he says, he would not have time or the inclination to go out and still sell his fish, since he would have been up and about, long before dawn.

A better way for marketing his fish under the new SSF policy would be for him to get other family and other community members involved.

“We can work together in groups, and some of the groups can look at processing the fish and sell it.”

Hahn Goliath, fieldworker for Masifundise in the Northern West Coast of the Western Cape, says that currently they market their high-end value fish stock like rock lobster through intermediaries who work on behalf of the big companies.

“We sell our fish over the scale and get a price per kilogram, and the local fisherman only get about one-third of the value of the fish,” says Goliath.

The line fish he says is not commercially viable, and are not sold through the factories.

Goliath says that the current system is not good, so the fishermen does not benefit, and that we need to look at how we can change it.

“The broader community must get involved in the processing and marketing of the fish,” Goliath says.

Many things will have to be put in place when looking at marketing the fish of the small-scale fishers.

Goliath believes the assistance of the present marketers needs to be roped in, if we want small-scale fishers to become successful in marketing their own products.

“They have a lot of knowledge, expertise, networks and resources to market the fish, which they have established over many years.”

Challenges like logistics, finance, volumes, networks, transport, manufacturing standards, SABS approval, business skills and other challenges will have to be addressed and taken head-on, if a successful marketing strategy for small-scale fishers is to be implemented.

Goliath believes that the government should also come to the party, and that they must roll out programmes to help in many respects of marketing and the management of small-scale fishery businesses.

“My dream is that we can one day deal directly with the buyers of our products. For that, lots of training will be needed. We have already spoken to the DTI for support to get the communities ready, they were not ready then, but I hope that they will be able to help us now, when the SSF policy gets implemented.”

What are your thoughts, how can small-scale fishing communities partake in marketing activities?

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