An annual production of nearly 2 million tonnes of cultured fish makes Bangladesh the world’s fifth-largest producer of inland aquaculture (FAO), and the overall fisheries sector is a key economic driver, contributing 3.69% of the country’s GDP and over 23% of agricultural GDP.
However, the sector is faced with various challenges such as degradation and pollution of natural water bodies, low value addition and low economic power of stakeholders, a scarcity of good quality spawn, fries, feed and other inputs in aquaculture and a general poor infrastructure and unhygienic conditions throughout. Moreover, despite the sector contributing to 11% of the country’s employment, the role of women remains largely understated and limited to small roles in the homestead.
Against this backdrop, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have embarked on the “Aquaculture: increasing income, diversifying diets, and empowering women in Bangladesh and Nigeria” (IDEA) project, implemented by the World Fish, aims to nurture sustainable growth of the aquaculture sector to help enhance the income of smallholder families, the diets and nutrition of vulnerable women and children and the empowerment of women in Bangladesh.
With a specific focus on the Rajshahi and Rangpur divisions in northwest Bangladesh – a region which is economically backward but has a high development potential for aquaculture – WorldFish teamed up with LightCastle to assess the demand for fish in the region. The goal of the study will be to better understand consumer dynamics for strengthening partnerships with private sector businesses, investors and government to develop profitable value chains; and transforming local government policies to enable increased production, creating an environment for private uptake of fish into nutritional improvement initiatives.
LightCastle prepared a detailed study on the fish and fish-based products market in Rajshahi, Rangpur and some parts of Dhaka. This research project had, in its first two phases (Phase 1 in June 2019 and Phase 2 in September 2019), covered over 1,000 consumer respondents spread over 75 fish markets to better understand market systems and consumer dynamics. More specifically, LCP had undertaken a thorough value chain analysis and market system assessment by engaging groups of key actors and stakeholders in order to provide insights on the following dynamics of the aquaculture market:
- The volume and value of fish flowing through the upazilla, district and regional markets, specifically in the Northwest and Dhaka market.
- The various customer segments and buying patterns, the competition, and the economic environment in terms of barriers to entry and regulation
- Fish preferences by species, sizes and price within markets of the Northwest and Dhaka
- A market system assessment for fish and fish-based products, access, demand, and embedded technical services
- The growth potential of the fisheries market, taking into account trans-boundary import and export dynamics
- Major fish markets in the Northwest distinguishing between major retail and wholesale markets.
Based on the study findings, the project has recommended several entry points and identified stakeholders and private sector synergies for the IDEA project. It is expected that the findings of the study will effectively guide and inform World Fish and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in the strategic design and intervention planning under the IDEA project, and ultimately help strengthen the sustainability of the fisheries ecosystem in Bangladesh.