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Fish provides more than 4.5 billion people with at least 15 % of their average per capita intake of animal protein. Fish's unique nutritional properties make it also essential to the health of billions of consumers in both developed and developing countries. Fish is one of the most efficient converters of feed into high quality food and its carbon footprint is lower compared to other animal production systems. Through fish-related activities (fisheries and aquaculture but also processing and trading), fish contribute substantially to the income and therefore to the indirect food security of more than 10 % of the world population, essentially in developing and emergent countries. Yet, limited attention has been given so far to fish as a key element in food security and nutrition strategies at national level and in wider development discussions and interventions. As a result, the tremendous potential for improving food security and nutrition embodied in the strengthening of the fishery and aquaculture sectors is missed. The purpose of this paper is to make a case for a closer integration of fish into the overall debate and future policy about food security and nutrition. For this, we review the evidence from the contemporary and emerging debates and controversies around fisheries and aquaculture and we discuss them in the light of the issues debated in the wider agriculture/farming literature. The overarching question that underlies this paper is: how and to what extent will fish be able to contribute to feeding 9 billion people in 2050 and beyond? Keywords Fish. Food security and nutrition. Micro-nutrient deficiency. Fisheries. Aquaculture
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ORIGINAL PAPER
Feeding9billionby2050Putting fish back on the menu
Christophe Béné &Manuel Barange &Rohana Subasinghe &
Per Pinstrup-Andersen &Gorka Merino &
Gro-Ingunn Hemre &Meryl Williams
Received: 11 January 2015 /Accepted: 4 February 2015
#The Author(s) 2015. This article is published with open access at Springerlink.com
Abstract Fish provides more than 4.5 billion people with at
least 15 % of their average per capita intake of animal protein.
Fishs unique nutritional properties make it also essential to
the health of billions of consumers in both developed and
developing countries. Fish is one of the most efficient con-
verters of feed into high quality food and its carbon footprint is
lower compared to other animal production systems. Through
fish-related activities (fisheries and aquaculture but also pro-
cessing and trading), fish contribute substantially to the in-
come and therefore to the indirect food security of more than
10 % of the world population, essentially in developing and
emergent countries. Yet, limited attention has been given so
far to fish as a key element in food security and nutrition
strategies at national level and in wider development discus-
sions and interventions. As a result, the tremendous potential
for improving food security and nutrition embodied in the
strengthening of the fishery and aquaculture sectors is missed.
The purpose of this paper is to make a case for a closer inte-
gration of fish into the overall debate and future policy about
food security and nutrition. For this, we review the evidence
from the contemporary and emerging debates and controver-
sies around fisheries and aquaculture and we discuss them in
the light of the issues debated in the wider agriculture/farming
literature. The overarching question that underlies this paper
is: how and to what extent will fish be able to contribute to
feeding 9 billion people in 2050 and beyond?
Keywords Fish .Food security and nutrition .Micro-nutrient
deficiency .Fisheries .Aquaculture
Introduction
Fish is critically important to food security and good nutrition
(Allison 2011;Thilsted2012; Beveridge et al. 2013). Fish and
other aquatic foods are high in protein and contain many es-
sential micronutrients. The fishery and aquaculture sectors are
the source of income for millions of women and men in low-
income families (Béné 2006), thus contributing directly and
indirectly to their food security (Béné et al. 2007; Allison
2011; World Bank/FAO/WorldFish 2012). Yet, the potential
contributions of fish to food security and nutrition (FSN) are
C. Béné (*)
Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, Sussex, UK
e-mail: c.bene@cgiar.org
M. Barange
Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Plymouth, UK
e-mail: MABA@pml.ac.uk
R. Subasinghe
Food and Agriculture Organization, Rome, Italy
e-mail: Rohana.Subasinghe@fao.org
P. Pinstrup-Andersen
Cornell University Ithaca, Ithaca, USA
e-mail: pp94@cornell.edu
G. Merino
AZTI, Pasaia, Gipuzkoa, Spain
e-mail: gmerino@azti.es
G.<I. Hemre
Institute of Nutrition and Seafood Research, Bergen, Norway
e-mail: Gro-Ingunn.Hemre@nifes.no
M. Williams
17 Agnew Street, Aspely, Queensland, Australia
e-mail: meryljwilliams@gmail.com
Present Address:
C. Béné
International Center for Tropical Agriculture, Cali, Colombia
Food Sec.
DOI 10.1007/s12571-015-0427-z
all but ignored in the international debate, as if a firewall stood
between the discussions about the role of fish and the broader
debates about FSN issues. A recent review of international
development and research agencies working on FSN revealed
for instance that Bfish is strikingly missing from strategies for
reduction ofmicronutrient deficiency, precisely where it could
potentially have the largest impact^(Allison et al. 2013:45).
The purpose of this paper is to make a case for a closer
integration of fish into the overall FSN debate. As such the
discussion is directed not to those in the fisheries and aqua-
culture communities who have been relentlessly advocating
for fish as an entry point in this debate (see e.g., Béné et al.
2007;Halletal.2011;Thilsted2012), but to the vast majority
of the international experts who are influencing the wider
debate and policies on FSN.
The World Committee on Food Security (CFS) took an
important step in the right direction in 2012 by requesting that
the High Level Panel on Food Security (HLPE) undertook an
in-depth study of the role of sustainable fisheries and aquacul-
ture for FSN. The report (HLPE 2014) presents the strongest
case yet for incorporating fish into the debates on how to
achieve FSN for all and suggests a set of activities and policies
to be pursued.
Building on this report and a large body of literature, our
ambition is to bring fish onto the table. A number of papers
have succeeded in presenting a very comprehensive evidence-
based argument for supporting fish as a central element in the
FSN debate (see e.g., Prein and Ahmed 2000; Roos et al.
2003;2007; Kawarazuka and Béné 2011; Beveridge et al.
2013). Here, we aim to review the evidence from the contem-
porary and emerging debates and controversies around fisher-
ies and aquaculture. In doing this we do not go into the micro-
level issues concerning social, gendered and micro-economic
aspects of fish, FSN at the local levels for those we refer
readers to the HLPE report (HLPE 2014).
Some of the underlying questions in the present study are
closely linked to the issues discussed in the wider agriculture/
farming literature. The latest estimate suggests for instance
that, in 2009, fish accounted for 17 % of the global popula-
tions intake of animal protein and 6.5 % of all protein con-
sumed (FAO 2014). In the context of this Special Issue on
BFeeding 9 Billion^, the key questions are: a) Can we main-
tain these consumption rates, given the projected growth in
human population and the growing environmental challenges
facing the earth? and b) Could fish - one of the most efficient
converters of feed into high quality food be a substitute for
other sources of animal protein? Finally, in the context of the
current discourse about future resource scarcity, should fish be
considered a more environmentally friendly source of protein
than the other livestock production systems?
Fish is more than just a source of animal protein. Fish
contains several essential amino acids, especially lysine and
methionine. The lipid composition of fish, with the presence
of long-chain, poly-unsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFAs), is
unique. Fish is also an important source of essential
micronutrients vitamins D, A and B, and minerals (calcium,
phosphorus, iodine, zinc, iron and selenium), which makes it
particularly attractive in the current fight against malnutrition
in low income and food deficient countries (LIFDCs). Some
countries (e.g., Zambia, Brazil, or Chile) have already recog-
nized this potential and have included fish in their national
school-feeding programmes. Should this be more systemati-
cally considered in countries with high levels of malnutrition
to complement or substitute the technology-dependant (and
expensive) bio-fortification programmes?
In addressing these issues we must first acknowledge that
fish production sectors and associated value chains have been
remarkably dynamic in the last three decades what some
refer to as the blue revolution. Every second fish we con-
sume is now produced in aquaculture. This new situation is a
result of the stagnation of capture fisheries following decades
of expansion, some of it carried out in an unsustainable man-
ner (FAO 2012), combined with impressive growth rates in
the aquaculture industry, subject to some major adjustments to
overcome the early challenges such as fish disease and nega-
tive environmental impacts. Critics of aquaculture have also
pointed to the use of fishmeal and fish oil produced from wild
fish, to feed farmed fish. These concerns are valid and need to
be taken (along with their solutions) into account in this
discussion.
Understanding fish production in relation to food security
and nutrition
The fastest growing food-supply industry in the world
In 2011, 173 Mt of fish were extracted from the global
marine and inland water ecosystems, of which 7 to 10
Mt were discarded prior to landing and 12 Mt were lost
at the post-harvest stage. The production from capture
fisheries and aquaculture available amounted therefore
to 154 Mt, of which about 131 Mt were utilized directly
for human consumption (Fig. 1)(HLPE2014). Thanks
to aquaculture and fisheries, the global supply of fish
has grown by a factor of 8 since 1950. By comparison,
even after the Green Revolution the world rice produc-
tion increased only by a factor of 3. In effect, fish
production has been the fastest growing food industry
in the world for the last 40 years and is expected to
remain so in the near future. The fish supply per capita
has more than tripled in the last half century, from
6 kg/year in 1950 to 18.8 kg/year in 2011 Fig. 2.
In fact, the world fish supply has effectively been grow-
ing faster than the worlds population (FAO 2012).
These global figures mask, however, some important
C. Béné et al.
regional variations: fish consumption is the lowest in
Africa (9.1 kg per capita in 2009), while Asia accounts
for almost two-thirds of total consumption (20.7 kg per
capita).
Fish as the largest source of animal protein
Fish is a major source of animal protein, overshadowing
most other sources. In 2010 it represented a source
twice as important as poultry, and three times larger
than cattle (Fig. 3). Today capture fisheries and aqua-
culture provide 3 billion people with almost 20 % of
their average per capita intake of animal protein, and a
further 1.3 billion people with about 15 % of their per
capita intake (HLPE 2014). This share can exceed 50 %
in some countries. In West Africa, Asian coastal coun-
tries, and many small island states, the proportion of
total dietary protein from fish can reach 60 % or more
(e.g., Gambia, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Cambodia,
Bangladesh, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, or the Maldives)
(FAO 2014).
The geography of fish as a source of protein is also signif-
icant in the FSN discussion. Twenty-two of the 30 countries
where fish contribute more than one-third of the total animal
protein supply were officially referred to as LIFDCs in 2010
(Kawarazuka and Béné 2011). In other words, almost three-
quarters of the countries where fish is an important source of
animal protein are poor (income-wise) and food-deficient. Yet
Notes: (a) 2011 estimates. (b) 2010 estimates.
Source data from FAO (2012) and She
p
herd and Jackson (2013).
173 mill tonnes
131 mill tonnes
17 mill tonnes
6 mill tonnes
3.2% growth (since 1950)
Direct Human Food
18.8 kg/capita/year (a)
Fish 73%
Pig 20%
Poultry 05%
Others 02%
Ornamental, bait, etc.
Fishmeal, Fish oil
(b)
Discard 7-10 mill tonnes
Post-harvest losses 12 mill tonnes
Fig. 1 World fish utilization.
Notes: a2011 estimates. b2010
estimates. Source data from FAO
(2012) and Shepherd and Jackson
(2013)
Source: FAO Statistics and Information Branch of the Fisheries and A
q
uaculture De
p
artment.
Fig. 2 Relative contribution of
aquaculture and capture fisheries
to production and food fish
supply. Source: FAO Statistics
and Information Branch of the
Fisheries and Aquaculture
Department
Feeding 9 billion by 2050 Putting fish back on the menu
in these LIFDCs, even if fish is a substantial proportion of the
food intake, undernourishment can still occur as total food
intake is often insufficient.
Fish - beyond protein
Some point out, however, that the main contribution of fish to
FSN may not be in relation to its protein content, but its lipid
and micro-nutrient content.
The lipid composition of fish is unique, having LC-PUFAs,
with many beneficial effects for child development and adult
health (Thilsted et al. 1997; Larsen et al. 2011;Richardsonand
Montgomery 2005). Among fish species that are cheaper in
developing countries, small pelagic fish such as anchovy and
sardine are some of the richest in LC-PUFAs (USDA 2011),
especially compared to large freshwater fish such as carp and
tilapia. When its rich nutrient content is preserved, fish can
provide protective effects against a wide range of health is-
sues. LC-PUFAs for instance provide protection against dis-
eases such as stroke, high blood pressure or coronary heart
disease (Miles and Calder 2012; Rangel-Huerta et al. 2012).
Complementing its fatty acid content, fish is also known to
be an important source of essential micronutrients vitamins
D and B, and minerals (Roos et al. 2003;2007;Bonhametal.
2009). Lipid-rich fish also contain vitamin A. Recent research
showed that fish species consumed whole with bones, heads,
and viscera play a critical role in micronutrient intakes of
people as these parts are where most micronutrients are con-
centrated. Some of these small fish (such as mola
(Amblypharyngodon mola), darkina (Esomus danricus), sar-
dines and pilchards, anchovy, seabass, tilapia) contain high
levels of minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, iodine, zinc,
iron and selenium, which are low in other foods. The potential
contribution that fish (even in small quantity) can therefore
offer to address multiple micronutrient deficiencies is now
being recognized (e.g., Roos et al. 2007; Kawarazuka and
Béné 2011; Thilsted 2012). For instance, the high level of
iodine found in fish can help prevent iodine deficiency which
is known to cause cretinism (stunted growth and mental
retardation).
Current issues in relation to fish contribution to food
security
Fishmeal and fish oil in aquaculture
In addition to being used directly as human food, fish also
contributes indirectly to human nutrition when it is used as
fishmeal for aquaculture and poultry/livestock feeds (Tacon
and Metian 2009). In 2011, 23 Mt of fish essentially small
pelagic fish species such as anchovy, herring, mackerel and
sardine have been destined to non-direct human consump-
tion, of which 75 % (17 Mt) was reduced to fishmeal and fish
oil for aquaculture, poultry and other livestock feeding (cf.
Fig. 1). In 2010, 73 % of the total world fishmeal was used
to feed farmed fish, followed by pigs (20 %), poultry (5 %)
and others (2 %) (Shepherd and Jackson 2013).
From a FSN perspective, the use of fishmeal for farmed
fish (and livestock) raises important issues. Leaving aside the
debate on the role of small pelagic fish in supporting larger
fish, birds and marine mammals in the ecosystem (Smith et al.
2010), is fishmeal the most efficient way to use fish (especial-
ly low-cost small pelagic fish rich in LC-PUFA) or would
these fish contribute more to food security if a larger share
of them was eaten directly by people? Indeed, despite some
substantial improvement in the last decade, the rate of conver-
sion of fishmeal to fish is still a source of concern (Troell et al.
Fig. 3 Wor l d P rodu cti o n o f t he
main sources of animal protein
over the period 19602010.
Source: FAO Stat
C. Béné et al.
2014). On average, for every kg of farmed fish produced,
0.7 kg of wild fish is needed (Tacon and Metian 2008). This
average figure, however, masks important differences: while
for omnivorous farmed fish, the rate is down to an acceptable
0.2 to 1.41 kg of wild fish per 1.0 kg of farmed fish, for
carnivorous farmed fish, the figure is higher: 1.35 to 5.16 kg
to produce one kg of farmed fish (Boyd et al. 2007).
Fish losses and implications on food security and nutrition
The global discards of fish (fish caught but dumped overboard
due to low quality, damage or spoilage, non-targeted species
or below regulation size) were estimated to be around 7.3 Mt
in 2005, 80 % of which coming from industrial fleets. In
contrast, small-scale fisheries generate less wastage in the
form of discards (about 2 Mt a year, that is, 4 % of their
estimated landing
1
) (Kelleher 2005).
With increasing fish scarcity and increasing fish prices,
species previously deemed commercially inferior are progres-
sively integrated into consumer eating habits and markets.
Most shrimp trawlers, which used to discard up to 95 % of
their catch, are now landing more bycatch for human con-
sumption (Béné et al. 2007). In small-scale fisheries where
discarding fish is rare, substantial quantities and quality are
lost due to post-harvest mishandling during transport, storage,
processing, on the way to markets and waiting to be sold.
Especially in developing countries, where access to electricity
and cold chain can still be an issue, fish post-harvest losses can
be significant. Estimated at 1012 Mt in 2005, the total ac-
counts for 10 % of global capture and culture fisheriespro-
duction (Béné et al. 2007). While physical losses in small-
scale fisheries are less than 5 %, economic losses can be sub-
stantial. In Africa, some estimates (FAO Focus nd) put post-
harvest losses in some cases to levels as high as 2025 %. In
aquaculture, waste streams in value chains have been large in
the past but are tending to decline rapidly as competitive pres-
sures force innovation (Arthur et al. 2013).
Sustainability of fisheries and implications for food security
Because total fish production (availability) is an important
dimension of food security, a key issue in this debate is the
environmental sustainability of capture fisheries. The extent to
which capture fisheries have exceeded sustainable levels has
generated strong expert and public opinion debates (Worm
et al. 2006; Pauly et al. 2005;Hilborn2013) and many media
headlines, scientific papers and environmental campaigns
have been in the last two decades framed around the idea that
world fisheries resources are in crisis due to overfishing (see
e.g., Pauly et al. 1998; Myers and Worm 2003). FAO has
expressed a more nuanced but nonetheless concerned view
about the state of world marine fisheries (e.g., FAO 2012),
acknowledging the granularity in the state of resources world-
wide. The current consensus is that global fisheries would be
more productive if the levels of overfishing were reduced
(Srinivasan et al. 2010), and the environmental sustainability
of fisheries were recognized to be a sine qua none condition
for FSN (HLPE 2014).
An important point in this debate, however, is that improv-
ing FSN through fisheries would depend on stock recovery
and also on access to and distribution of the harvest, as well as
gender consideration (de Schutter 2012; Williams 2010).
Indeed overfishing per se is only one aspect of the problem.
Other economic activities, such as oil drilling, coastal devel-
opment, pollution, or dams and water flow management have
significant negative impact on aquatic habitats (Halpern et al.
2008).
Indirect contribution to food security and nutrition
through livelihood support
A critical pathway to enhance FSN is through the income that
people generate from engaging in remunerated activities. In
this respect aquaculture and fisheries (especially through the
number of small-scale operators engaged in fishing, aquacul-
ture, processing, and trading businesses see e.g., Béné et al.
2010) play a critical role in low income and emergent coun-
tries. Altogether it is estimated that between 660 and 820
million people (fishers, fish-farmers, fish traders, workers in
fish processing factories, and their families) depend on fish-
related activities as a source of income (Allison et al. 2013;
HLPE 2014). This represents more than 10 % of the world
population. For most of these households, the revenues gen-
erated may not necessarily be very high (Neiland and Béné
2004; Allison et al. 2011; Béné and Friend 2011), but it is
often the main component of their livelihood, which allows
them to secure accessibility to food (Heck et al. 2007; Béné
et al. 2009;Eideetal.2011).
Feeding 9 billion by 2050: where does fish stand?
The global human population is expected to exceed 9 billion
by 2050 (UN estimates), increasing the pressure on the food
sectors to maximize production and reduce waste. Production
increase must occur in a sustainable way and in a context
where key resources, such as land and water, are likely to be
scarcer and where climatic change impact will intensify. The
fish-production sector is no exception.
In this context two key questions emerge. First, will fish-
eries and aquaculture be able to maintain the current global
fish consumption rate of 18 kg per capita per year, and the
equivalent regional values, and if not, how will society
1
Overall, small scale fisheries land approximately 40 Mt annually, com-
pared to 50 Mt by large scale fisheries (HLPE 2014).
Feeding 9 billion by 2050 Putting fish back on the menu
address the needs of expected winners and losers (Barange
et al. 2014)? So far technological and institutional innovations
have ensured that the combined production of fish through
fisheries and aquaculture has been faster than the world pop-
ulations demand of fish. The question is now whether we can
keep up this pace with another 2 billion people added in the
next 35 years, and how the four dimensions of food security
(availability, accessibility/affordability, utilization and stabili-
ty) will be balanced to ensure that fish go to those who need
them most (Merino et al. 2012).
The second key question is whether sustainable fisheries
and aquaculture will be able to help address the bigger food
security issue that will affect the world inthe coming decades?
In particular, could aquaculture become a substitute form of
protein for some of the less efficient food production systems,
or even be used to compensate for the decline in farming
systemsproductivity that is predicted as a consequence of
the impact of climate change?
How much fish do we need?
Global drivers of fish demand
World population is often presented as a key driver for the
growth in seafood demand and for fisheries development. In
reality, a more important driver for fish (and other animal-
source food) consumption is income (Speedy 2003).
Demand for fish as food is particularly high in the wealthier
strata of societies, including in the low-income countries, and
as income will continue to increase in highly populated coun-
tries such as China and India, demand levels are likely to rise
more strongly (Garcia and Rosenberg 2010). Overall, a large
increase in the number of people moving into the middle class,
particularly but not exclusively in Asia, is likely to result in a
very large expansion in the demand for fish.
Income is, however, not the only driver of fish demand. It is
recognized that urbanization is also an important factor in-
creasing animal-source food consumption in general and fish
consumption in particular. Delgado et al. (1997) suggest that
changes in food preference driven by urbanization alone have,
in the past, accounted for an extra 5.79.3 kg per capita con-
sumption of meat and fish per year. Similarly, Betru and
Kawashima (2009)andToufiqueandBelton(2014)present
data from Ethiopia and Bangladesh, indicating that urbaniza-
tion affects animal food consumption rates independently of
income.
These different factors explain the rapid increase in
demand for meat, milk, and fish in the emerging econ-
omies of Asia. In China, for example, the demand for
fish is likely to increase from 24.4 kg per person per
year in 2000 to 41 kg per person per year by 2030
(World Bank 2014).
Demand projection
Modelling exercises have been conducted recently with the
objective of estimating the projections of fish demand and
supply. These modelling exercises include the World Bank-
FAO-IFPRI Fish 2030 analysis elaborated on the IMPACT
model developed by the International Food Policy Research
Institute (IFPRI) (World Bank 2014); the OECD-FAO
Agricultural outlook model built on the combined
multimarket, partial equilibrium AgLink-CoSiMo model
(OECD-FAO 2013; Lem et al. 2014); and a series of peer-
reviewed articles relying on various types of modelling and
projection tools (Rice and Garcia 2011;Merinoetal.2010,
2012; Barange et al. 2014). The time horizon of these different
analyses is not always the same. For instance, the OECD-FAO
outlook model works over a 10 year-projection period (i.e., up
to 2023 as per the last iteration of the model), while the World
Bank-FAO-IFPRI model runs until 2030; Merino et al. 2010
used a 20 year simulation, calibrated on a 19972004 data set
(meaning technically that their projection runs until 2024),
while Merino et al. (2012) and Barange et al. (2014)proposed
a projection up to 2050. A strict comparison of the different
projections is therefore difficult.
A bigger issue is that very few of these studies integrated
information on the drivers of changes (the combination of
urbanization and increase in income), to estimate with accu-
racy the future demand for fish across the world. Many studies
assume constant consumption rates in the future (e.g., Barange
et al. 2014) or fixed nutritional targets (Rice and Garcia 2011).
Others worked directly with projected fish consumption (e.g.,
OECD-FAO 2013;Merinoetal.2012), that is, by dividing the
projected supply by the projected population. None of these
approaches therefore offers an appropriate basis for estimating
the actual demand for fish. The World Bank-FAO-IFPRI study
uses regional fish consumption rates to estimate the global
demand but the report does not clarify how these figures are
constructed.
2
Aggregating the regional figures at the global
level, the report estimates that the world demand for fish will
be around 152 Mt in 2030 (World Bank 2014).
Merino et al. (2012) estimated the expected production
capacity of marine ecosystems exploited under maximum sus-
tainable yield principles, and projected aquaculture production
requirements to achieve a range of food consumption targets.
They concluded that between 125 and 210 Mt of fish by 2050
will be necessary to maintain fish consumption at around 15
20 kg per capita per year. Starting from a different angle, Rice
2
The report explains that BFor the subsequent years in the simulation
[after 2000 which was used as the base year for the calibration], these
intercept values [between supply and demand] are changed according to
the exogenous growth rates specified for each of the supply and demand
functions^(World Bank 2014: 23, our emphasis). It is not clear from the
report how the exogenous growth rates in regional demand have been
computed in the model.
C. Béné et al.
and Garcia (2011) sought to estimate the need for additional
fish necessary to supply 20 % of the dietary protein require-
ment to feed a 9 billion population by 2050. On this basis, an
additional production of 75 Mt of fish from fisheries and
aquaculture would be needed above the 2006 production level
(144 Mt), that is, approximately 215 Mt. This represents an
almost 50 % increase in production with respect to the 2006
level. While this figure is above other projections, it has the
advantage that it starts from an actual estimate of the future
needs (as opposed to the estimate of apparent consumption
rates), but without factoring in future production potentials
or market responses to the fishmeal/fish oil demand (see
below).
In summary, the current understanding of the global drivers
of fish demand (urbanization and increase in living standards
in developing and emerged countries) is relatively well
established but not all of the current models have integrated
these drivers comprehensively. In comparison, the efforts to
better understand the ability of the world to produce fish in the
future (i.e., the supply side of the equation) have been more
elaborate.
The future of fisheries production and the impact of climate
change
A consensus has emerged in the literature that the doom-and-
gloom rhetoric that had driven the discussion surrounding the
state of marine fisheriesin the late 2000s (Garcia and Grainger
2005; Caddy and Seijo 2005) was exaggerated (Grafton et al.
2010;Hilborn2010) and that although the situation remains
concerning in respect to many stocks, we are not likely to face
the global collapse that had been announced by some biolo-
gists (e.g., Myers and Worm 2003;Wormetal.2006; Pauly
2009). Instead, the downward trend of overfished stocks may
have been reined in (Fig. 4).
3
Reflecting this, most of the
projections proposed in the recent literature estimate that the
global fisherieslandings are likely to be stable in the short to
medium term. The OECD-FAO model for instance estimates
that capture fisheries will be 5 % higher by 2024 than it is was
in 2013, that is, around 96 Mt (OECD-FAO 2013) while the
World Bank-FAO-IFPRI model estimates that this will be
around 93 Mt in 2030. These figures are at a global scale
however, and some regional outlooks are for good stock re-
building, while others are for a worsening in overfishing.
Yet another key factor for which much uncertainty remains
is the impact of climate change. Unlike most terrestrial ani-
mals, aquatic animal species are poikilothermic (cold-
blooded) and changes in aquatic habitat temperatures will
more rapidly and significantly influence distribution, prey
availability, metabolism, growth and reproduction, with
stronger impact on fishing and aquaculture distribution and
productivity (Cheung et al. 2009). At the same time however,
the interconnectedness of aquatic systems allows many spe-
cies to change spatial distribution more easily as ecosystems
shift, to remain in their zones of preference. Clearly, therefore,
the impact of global climate change on ocean capture fisheries
will be important. Biological predictions based on ocean-
atmosphere general circulation models (OA-GCMs) have al-
ready demonstrated that the physical and chemical properties
of the oceans will be modified, affecting the productivity,
distribution, seasonality and efficiency of food webs, from
primary producers to fish (Steinacher et al. 2010; Cheung
et al. 2009,2011). Some of these earlier GCM models how-
ever, were limited by their coarse resolution, too low to cap-
ture the processes that dominate the dynamics of the worlds
coastal and shelf regions, where most fisheries operate. More
advanced models are now available (e.g., Merino et al. 2012;
Blanchard et al. 2012; Barange et al. 2014).
Overall, and with few exceptions, the conclusion of all
these models is that although climate change will alter the
present geographical distribution of shelf-sea ecosystems pro-
ductivity, in most of the regions and EEZs, the overall poten-
tial impact is projected to be low to moderate. Barange et al.
(2014), for instance, used a high resolution shelf-sea physical-
biological model that allowed them to scale down the analysis
and gave greater confidence in predicting the consequences at
national scales. They conclude that by 2050, estimates of na-
tional fish production should remain on average within ±10 %
of the present yields.
The contribution of aquaculture to future fish supply
The second element on the supply side is aquaculture.
Discussion of the rise of aquaculture has so far largely focused
on its contribution to global aquatic animal food supplies,
ignoring the resultant changes in species composition of the
fishes consumed, how it is farmed, and the implications for
food and nutrition security (Kawarazuka and Béné 2011;
UNHRC 2012). As a consequence, our understanding mainly
concerns the question of the ability of the aquaculture industry
to maintain its rate of growth. In this regard, most of the recent
analyses agree that the era of exponential growth is over and
while the sector will still continue to grow, the projected rate
of growth is expected to decelerate. The main causes of this
slower growth are likely to be freshwater scarcity, lower avail-
ability of locations for optimal production, and high costs of
fishmeal, fish oil and other feeds (FAO 2012). Nonetheless,
the World Bank-FAO-IFPRI model suggests this rate will still
be sufficient to maintain a steady rise, reaching the point
where it will equal global fisheries production by 2030
around 93 Mt (World Bank 2014)(Fig.5). Technical innova-
tion, improved farm and animal health management, and im-
proved and more efficient germplasm will be responsible for
3
According to the FAO, the number of stocks fished at unsustainable
levels decreased from 32.5 % in 2008 to 28.8 % in 2011 (FAO 2014).
Feeding 9 billion by 2050 Putting fish back on the menu
this increased growth, in combination with the continued ex-
pansion of fish-farming. Combined with a projected capture
fish production that will remain fairly stable over the 2000
2030 period (see above), the global fish supply is projected to
rise to 187 Mt by 2030 (World Bank 2014). These figures are
consistent with the projections proposed by OECD-FAO in
which the global fish production will reach 181 Mt in 2022,
of which 161 Mt would be destined for direct human con-
sumption (OECD-FAO 2013).
A key element in this discussion is the importance of
fishmeal and fish oil and how markets and technological in-
novations will respond to price signals (Merino et al. 2010,
2012;FAO2012; World Bank 2014; Troell et al. 2014).
4
The
consensus is that the use of fishmeal in aquaculture feeds is
expected to decrease in percentage with time, thanks to in-
creasingly effective replacements, including plant proteins,
waste products from fish and terrestrial animals and use of
better/improved breeds of aquatic animals with better feed
conversion (Tacon et al. 2011). Formulated feeds are a signif-
icant factor in production costs, and this is a strong incentive
to develop technology that will make feeds more affordable
and sustainable. Overall, the proportion of fish used for non-
direct human consumption has decreased from 30 % in the
early 1990s to 15 % in 2010 and the World Bank analysis
concluded that the projected expansion of aquaculture will
be achieved with only an 8 % increase in the global fishmeal
supply during the 20102030 period (World Bank 2014).
Putting all the pieces together
Given the very rough projections for fish demand and the
more elaborate projections for fish supply just reviewed
above, will fisheries and aquaculture be able to maintain their
current contribution to food security in the future? The answer
that emerges from the literature is that as far as food availabil-
ity and demands are concerned, it is a conditional yes. All the
projection models currently available seem to agree that the
overall fish consumption rate could be maintained, in other
words, that the fisheries and aquaculture aggregated growth
will keep up with population growth rates. In fact, the OECD-
FAO even estimates that the world fish consumption will in-
crease by another 10 % and reach 20.9 kg per capita per year
by 2023. The World Bank-FAO-IFPRI report is slightly more
Data source: FAO FishStat and IMPACT
p
ro
j
ection model.
Fig. 5 Global fish production: data and projection 19842030 from the
IMPACT model (World Bank 2014). Data source: FAO FishStat and
IMPACT projection model
4
For instance, one of the 6 selected scenarios of the World Bank-FAO-
IFPRIs analysis is specifically focusing on these issues (Scenario 2
BExpanded Use of Fish Processing Waste in Fishmeal and Fish Oil
Production^)(WorldBank2014) and one of the selected issues of the
2012 FAO SOFiA report was on BDemand and supply of aquafeed and
feed ingredients for farmed fish and crustaceans: trends and future
prospects^(FAO 2012:171182).
Source: FAO (2012).
Fig. 4 Global trends in the state
of world marine fish stocks
(19742011). Source: FAO
(2012)
C. Béné et al.
conservative and estimates that the per capita fish
consumption will remain at around 18 kg per year in 2030.
Merino et al. (2012) and Barange et al. (2014) reached the
same conclusion for 2050, but this is essentially due to the
underlying assumptions of their models.
All these analyses, however, stress the fact that for this
outcome to occur, several specific conditions must be satis-
fied: capture fisheries will need to be exploited according to
sustainable principles; very significant technological develop-
ment will need to take place in aquaculture feeds to reduce
fishmeal dependency and in farm management and germ-
plasm to improve the overall efficiency of aquaculture; and
discards, waste and losses will need to be reduced. Some of
these conditions could be particularly challenging and a busi-
ness-as-usualapproach is expected to fail.
5
In addition to whether or not the world (and the markets)
will be responsible enough to ensure that these conditions are
satisfied, the question of who will be the winners and losers is
vital to the other key FSN issues, which are: access to liveli-
hoods in fish value chains and affordability of fish.
Unfortunately, the consensus is that in the coming decades,
the current situation regarding the imbalance between con-
sumers in developed and developing countries is unlikely to
change. While the present figures indicate the lowest fish
consumption per capita in Africa (9.1 kg in 2009), the
different models project that this imbalance will deteriorate
further. The OECD expects that per capita consumption in
Africa will decrease by a further 10 % by 2024, while that
of Asia will show the highest growth rate (+14 %, OECD-
FAO 2013). The World Bank-FAO-IFPRI projection
(World Bank 2014)isevenmorealarmingwithpercapita
fish consumption expected to decline in sub-Saharan
Africa by 1 % annually to 5.6 kg in 2030.
6
Yetatthesame
time developing countries will account for more than 91 %
of the total increase in fish consumption. Even so, their
annual per capita fish consumption will still remain below
that of more developed regions (19.8 vs. 24.2 kg) (World
Bank 2014).
A last important point needs to be mentioned. In view of
the importance of income growth and urbanization as drivers
of fish demand, the objective of merely maintaining fish pro-
duction growth rate at the same level as the growth in world
population would not be enough to prevent fish price from
increasing. The urban population with the highest income
growth will increase fish consumption while low-income peo-
ple will experience reductions in their fish consumption. This
is an important distributional and food security consequence.
To avoid that, fish production needs to expand faster than
population growth.
Can fish contribute further to the 2050 global food
security challenge?
The arguments presented above are mainly constructed
around a sectorial perspective. At least three other trans-
sectorial (or systemic) arguments should be considered in re-
lation to the wider debate of feeding 9 billion by 2050.
First, in terms of animal protein availability, with 18.2 kg
per capita per year, fish is providing 115, 133, and 189 % more
protein per capita than pig, poultry and beef respectively. In
fact, fish (combining capture fisheries and aquaculture) has
been the main contributor to the 61 % increase in the world
per capita consumption of animal protein for the period 1969
2009 (Table 1). As economic development is expected to con-
tinue driving an increasing trend in animal protein demand,
(OECD-FAO 2013) and aquaculture is projected to remain the
fastest growing food commodity sector, this sector will soon
become even more central in the future food security of the
world population.
5
Merino et al. (2012) estimate that the fish used in aquaculture feed to
produce one unit of output would have to be reduced by at least 50 %
from current levels to secure sustainability. If not, demand will push the
price of fishmeal products up to levels where the short term economic
incentive to exploit small pelagic (the main source of this fishmeal) be-
yond their maximum sustainable yield would be high, potentially leading
to increases in fishing capacity and rapid depletion of resources.
6
Some other regions of the world are also expected to face lower fish
consumption rate per capita: Japan, Latin America, Europe, and Central
Asia.
Tabl e 1 World per capita meat and fish food supply (kg per capita per
year) 19692009
1969 1979 1989 1999 2009
Pig meat 9.4 11.5 13.1 15.1 15.8
25.2 % 27.7 % 28.2 % 28.1 % 26.3 %
Poultry meat 3.8 5.6 7.3 10.7 13.6
10.2 % 13.5 % 15.7 % 19.9 % 22.7 %
Bovine meat 10.8 10.7 10.3 9.7 9.6
29.0 % 25.8 % 22.2 % 18.1 % 16.0 %
Mutton and goat meat 1.8 1.5 1.7 1.8 1.9
4.8 % 3.6 % 3.7 % 3.4 % 3.2 %
Meat, other 0.8 0.8 0.7 0.8 0.9
2.1 % 1.9 % 1.5 % 1.5 % 1.5 %
Capture 10 10.4 11 10.5 10
26.8 % 25.1 % 23.7 % 19.6 % 16.7 %
Aquaculture 0.7 1 2.4 5.1 8.2
1.9 % 2.4 % 5.2 % 9.5 % 13.7 %
Capture and Fisheries 10.7 11.4 13.4 15.6 18.2
28.7 % 27.5 % 28.8 % 29.1 % 30.3 %
Total 37.3 41.5 46.5 53.7 60
Source: FAOStat
Figures in percent are the respective contribution of each sector to the
total figure
Feeding 9 billion by 2050 Putting fish back on the menu
Second, in term of efficiency, fish in aquaculture systems
are very efficient converters of feed into protein in fact far
more efficient than most terrestrial livestock system (Fig. 6a).
For instance, poultry converts about 18 % of their consumed
food and pigs about 13 %, as compared with 30 % in the case
of fish (Hasan and Halwart 2009). Production of 1 kg of beef
protein requires 61.1 kg of grain, production of 1 kg of pork
protein requires 38 kg of grain, while fish only requires
13.5 kg (Hall et al. 2011). Most of this difference comes from
two biological characteristics of fish which give them great
advantages over land-based livestock in growth performance:
(i) the fact that fish are poikilotherms and therefore do not
expend energy maintaining a constant body temperature; and
(ii) the fact that, because finfish are physically supported by
the aquatic medium, fewer resources are used on bony skeletal
tissues, and a larger part of the food they eat is effectively
allocated to body growth.
Third, in terms of carbon footprint, aquatic animal produc-
tion systems have a lower carbon footprint per kilogram of
output compared with other terrestrial animal production sys-
tems(Halletal.2011). As a consequence, nitrogen and phos-
phorous emissions (kg of nitrogen and phosphorus produced
per tonne of protein produced) from aquaculture systems are
much lower than those in beef and pork production systems
and slightly higher than that of poultry (Fig. 6b). In fact, some
aquaculture production systems such as farming of bivalves
absorb nitrogen and phosphorous emissions from other systems.
All these reasons are important arguments for giving fish
far greater attention in the food security debate and in the
current discussion about how to feed 9 billion by 2050. The
CFS has started to recognize this and the report that was
commissioned in 2012 indeed recommends that fish (a) be-
comes an integral element in inter-sectoral national FSN
policies and programmes and (b) should be more systemati-
callyincludedincountriesnutritional programmes and inter-
ventions aiming at tackling micronutrient deficiencies espe-
cially among children and women (HLPE 2014:18
Recommendation 1a and 1b).
Conclusion
Fish is already making a major contribution to human food
supply and to the support of FSN for more than 660 million
fish-workers and their families. It also provides more than 4.5
billion consumers with at least 15 % of their average per capita
intake of animal protein. In addition, because fish is more nu-
tritious than staple foods such as cereals, providing in particular
essential fatty acids and micronutrients, it can play an extreme-
ly important role in improving the nutritional status of individ-
uals, in particular those at risk such as children and women.
Yet limited attention has been given so far to fish as a key
element in FSN strategies at national level and in wider de-
velopment discussions and interventions. Part of the problem
might have been that specialists in fisheries debates have con-
centrated predominantly on questions of biological sustain-
ability and on the economic efficiency of fisheries, neglecting
issues linked to its contribution to reducing hunger and mal-
nutrition and to supporting livelihoods (Kawarazuka and Béné
2010,2011). On the other end of the spectrum, and with too
few exceptions, most (non-fishery) food security experts and
decision-makers seem unfamiliar with these facts and, there-
fore, unaware of the critical role that aquaculture is likely to
play in the future. The problem is particularly pronounced in
the current debate about how to make the food system more
nutrition sensitive, i.e., how to change and improve the food
Source: Data for fish are derived from Hall et al. (2011). Data for beef, pork and chicken are derived from Flachowsky (2002) in Poštrk
(2003).
chicken
70
60
50
40
30
20
10
0
1400
1200
1000
800
600
400
200
0
-200
beef pork fish beef pork fish
(average) bivalves
kg / tonne of protein produced
Nitrogen
Phosphorus
Fig. 6 a Feed and protein conversion efficiency of beef, pork and fish; bNitrogen and phosphorous emissions for animal production systems. Source:
Data for fish are derived from Hall et al. (2011). Data for beef, pork and chicken are derived from Flachowsky (2002)inPoštrk (2003)
C. Béné et al.
systems in order to advance nutrition. As a consequence, fish
has so far been only marginally included in the international
FSN debate. Many nutritional programmes are still not aware
of, or not recognizing and building on the potential of fish for
the reduction of micronutrient deficiency.
In this paper, we make the case that fish deserves more
attention in food policies due to its importance in the food
basket, its unique nutritional properties, its higher efficiency
of production and carbon footprint compared to other forms of
animal production systems. We acknowledge some chal-
lenges, however, especially in making fish more affordable
for the poor or in maintaining or restoring the environmen-
tal sustainability of the sectors. We also stress that the ability to
meet the potential average fish demands of 9 billion people
masks inequalities and inequities in who eats the fish and who
benefits from the value chains. At present, people in Africa,
the poor in many societies, and women and minority groups,
including small-scale fishing and aquaculture communities
are in tension with large corporations and production units
over access to fish and fish-related employment (HLPE
2014). We have shown that the best available projections for
fish supply and demand are relatively positive in terms of the
capacity to meet future demands, although more solid model-
ling is still needed to better incorporate demand projections.
Climate change impacts on fish production also create uncer-
tainty in the projections.
In conclusion, fish should certainly be on the menu.
Acknowledgments This paper was part of a workshop sponsored by
the OECD Co-operative Research Programme on Biological Resource
Management for Sustainable Agricultural Systems.
Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative
Commons Attribution License which permits any use, distribution, and
reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and the
source are credited.
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Chris Béné is senior policy ad-
visor at the International Cen-
ter for Tropical Agriculture
(CIAT). At the time of writing
this article he was a senior re-
search fellow at the Institute
for Development Studies
(IDS). His past and current
work focuses on issues related
to poverty, vulnerability and
food security. He was recently
leading the team of High Lev-
el Panel of Experts commis-
sioned by the Committee on
WorldFoodSecuritytopro-
duce the report on Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture for Food
Security and Nutrition. He has a PhD in Environment and Life
Sciences from the University of Paris VI, a post-graduate Diploma
in Development Economics from the School of Development
Studies at the University of East Anglia (UK), and a Masters
degree in Marine Environmental Sciences from the University of
Marseille (France).
Manuel Barange is the Deputy
Chief Executive and Director of
Science at PML, and Honorary Pro-
fessor at the University of Exeter,
UK. His expertise includes climate
and anthropogenic impacts on ma-
rine ecosystems, fish ecology, be-
haviour and trophodynamics, and
fisheries assessment and manage-
ment. He currently works on the
impacts of climate change and eco-
nomic globalization on marine-
based commodities, and on the
oceanscontributions to food secu-
rity. He has published over 100
peer-review papers and in 2010 he was awarded the UNESCO-IOC Roger
Revelle Medal for his contributions to marine sciences.
Rohana Subasinghe is currently
the Chief of the Aquaculture
Brach of FAO Fisheries and
Aquaculture Department. He is a
specialist in aquaculture develop-
ment and aquatic animal health
management. At FAO, he is also
responsible for analyses of trends
in aquaculture development glob-
ally and serves as the Technical
Secretary to the Sub-Committee
on Aquaculture of the Committee
on Fisheries of the FAO. Since his
graduation in 1980 from the Uni-
versity of Colombo, Sri Lanka, he
has worked in all parts of the world, with most experience in Asia.
Rohana earned his PhD from Stirling University, UK.
Per Pinstrup-Andersen is Pro-
fessor Emeritus and Graduate
School Professor at Cornell Uni-
versity, Adjunct Professor at Co-
penhagen University and Chair of
the HLPE for Food Security. He is
past Chairman of the Science
Council of the CGIAR and Past
President of the American Agri-
cultural Economics Association
(AAEA). He has a B.S. from Co-
penhagen University, an M.S. and
Ph.D. from Oklahoma State Uni-
versity and honorary doctoral de-
grees from universities in the
United States, the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Switzerland, and India.
He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of
Feeding 9 billion by 2050 Putting fish back on the menu
Science (AAAS) and the American Agricultural Economics Association.
He is the 2001 World Food Prize Laureate and the recipient of several
awards for his research and communication of research results.
Gorka Merinosresearch focus-
es on the impact of environmental
and socioeconomic factors on ma-
rine fisheries, including fishers
strategic decisions through game
theoretic models, seeking to esti-
mate the future availability of fish
through future scenarios for fish-
eries and aquaculture and improv-
ing the scientific advice provided
to Tuna Regional Management
Organizations through Manage-
ment Strategy Evaluation frame-
works. His work has been carried
out in the Instituto de Ciencias del
Mar (Spain, 20022007), the Plymouth Marine Laboratory (UK, 2008
2012) and AZTI (Spain, 20132014).
Gro-Ingunn Hemre is Director
of Research at the Institute of Nu-
trition and Seafood Research
(NIFES; Bergen, Norway). Her
research focus has been on sea-
food and nutrition, and involves
studies with activity throughout
the food chain. Focus has been
on nutrient availability and utili-
zation. She is second in command
in the steering committee for the
Norwegian Scientific Committee
for Food Safety, performing risk-
assessments.
Meryl J. Williams has been ac-
tive in research, research manage-
ment and outreach in fisheries and
aquaculture for food security, gen-
der equality and social welfare,
and aquatic environmental and re-
source conservation. She has
worked for national (Australia),
regional and international agen-
cies and has been or is currently
engaged in a number of non-
executive leadership, review and
editorial positions, including
member of the Governing Board
of the International Crop Research
Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics,
and Vice-Chair of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the International
Seafood Sustainability Foundation. She was elected a Fellow of the Aus-
tralian Academy of Science, Technology and Engineering in 1993 and
awarded an Australian Centenary Medal in 2003. In 2004, the Asian Fish-
eries Society elected her as an honorary Life Member. In 2010, she was
named an Outstanding Alumnusof James Cook University, Australia.
C. Béné et al.
... Seafood production generally has a low environmental footprint compared with terrestrial meats (Hall et al., 2011;Gephart et al., 2021;Koehn et al., 2022). The nutritional value and environmental benefits of seafoods draw increasing attention to sustainable seafood production and consumption as a way to improve global food security and nutrition (Merino et al., 2012;World Bank, 2013;HLPE, 2014;Béné et al., 2015;Bennett et al., 2018;Tlusty et al., 2019;Willett et al., 2019;Bennett et al., 2021;Golden et al., 2021). Many countries have established dietary guidelines to promote seafood consumption (Thurstan and Roberts, 2014;Ahern et al., 2021). ...
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... Aquaculture, specifically fish, provides almost 15% of the daily protein requirement to about 4.5 billion people (Béné et al., 2015;FAO, 2020) and offers a viable alternative. They have very low carbon and freshwater footprints compared to terrestrial livestock and offer sustainable sources of protein (Macleod et al., 2020). ...
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The global demand for protein ingredients is continuously increasing owing to the growing population, rising incomes, increased urbanization, and aging population. Conventionally, animal-derived products (dairy, egg, and meat) satisfy the major dietary protein requirements of humans. With the global population set to reach 9.6 billion by 2050, there would be a huge deficit in meeting dietary protein requirements. Therefore, it is necessary to identify sustainable alternative protein sources that could complement high-quality animal proteins. In recent years, microalgae have been advocated as a potential industrial source of edible proteins owing to their wide and excellent ecological adaptation. Microalgae can grow in marginal areas utilizing non-potable wastewaters with high photosynthetic efficiency. Previously microalgae species such as Arthospira, and Chlorella have been used as single-cell proteins (SCP) with limited application in pharmaceutical industries. In recent years, the demand for innovative and sustainable functional ingredients for food applications has renewed the interest worldwide in microalgae proteins. The present review aims to provide a holistic view of various aspects related to the production and processing of edible proteins from microalgae biomass. A critical review of available literature on the nutritional quality, techno-functional properties, applications in food and feed sectors, and biological activities is presented. Further, challenges associated with each stage of processing are discussed. From the literature review, it can be summarized that microalgae proteins are comparable to reference proteins both in terms of amino acid (AA) quality and techno-functional properties. However recalcitrant cell wall poses a challenge in digestibility and effective utilization of the microalgae proteins. Further, poor sensory scores and palatability of microalgae biomass limit its applications in the food and feed sector. Novel applications of microalgae proteins include meat analogues, emulsifying agents, and bioactive peptides. Development of low-cost cultivation strategies, wet biomass-based downstream processing along with the bio-refinery approach of complete biomass volarization would enhance the sustainability quotient for human food applications.
... Chronic micronutrient deficiency in South Africa has remained a challenge, leading to a high rate of nutrient deficiency disorders, such as infant stunting, wasting, poor foetal development and high infant mortality rate (Béné et al. 2015;Global Nutrition Report 2020). South African poor communities have a high rate of iron, zinc, calcium and vitamin A deficiency in particular (Mamabolo and Alberts 2013;Motadi et al. 2015;Govender et al. 2017). ...
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Per capita meat consumption in Ethiopia has declined from 20 kg/capita/year in 1961 to 8 kg/person/year in 2004. FAO has been the prime source of Ethiopian livestock data though it has been acquiring the information through estimation of related resources. Central Statistical Agency of Ethiopia (CSA) started undertaking nationwide household surveys in 1996 and its result on livestock consumption data differed from FAO. In this paper, patterns of meat consumption in urban/rural Ethiopia between 1996 and 2004 were analyzed using cohort specific model by categorizing households according to level of income. Feasible general least square (FGLS) estimation technique was conducted to identify the key determinants affecting meat consumption in Ethiopia. Comparison of meat consumption by FAO and CSA was also done. The result showed that the response of meat consumption to income was higher in urban than in rural areas. Rural meat consumption made significant improvement between 1996 and 2000 but lost the momentum between 2000 and 2004. In urban areas, on the contrary, there was continual improvement throughout this period. The result of economic analysis revealed that urbanization and income have been found to be positively and significantly influencing meat consumption in Ethiopia at 1% and 5 % significance level respectively. On the other hand, level of cereal production and price of meat did not significantly affect per capita meat consumption. The comparison between FAO and CSA data showed that the former overestimated the per capita meat in Ethiopia by more than 100% compared to the CSA household survey result. The disparity arose from overestimation of rate of livestock utilization than number of livestock. Therefore, the level of consumption in Ethiopia must have been lower than commonly reported by FAO.