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Analysis of Fish Consumption and Poverty in Bangladesh

Study Director: Kazi Ali Toufique

Sponsor: Research Endowment Fund of BIDS

Aquaculture has grown in leaps and bounds in the last couple of decades in Bangladesh. This is welcomed by most as increasing fish production is expected to contribute to enhancing food security in a country becoming more vulnerable by fragile fisheries resource systems where catches from the wild have been steadily declining. This transformation characterised by the domination of non-farmed by farmed fishes is poorly understood in terms of changes in production, consumption and livelihoods and as a result often misguides towards adopting inappropriate strategies. Several questions remain insufficiently answered. What are the major changes in consumption pattern in terms of fish species? Are households increasingly consuming more farmed species? Which ones? Is the growth in aquaculture helping the poor consume more fish? What is the extent and pattern of substitution of non-farmed species by farmed? Some attempts have already been made in the literature to answer these questions but they are limited in scope as they are based either on unrepresentative or on dated or on cross-section data. This report makes an attempt to answer these questions by analysing fish consumption data collected in Household Income and Expenditure Surveys carried out in 2000, 2005 and 2010 in Bangladesh. We have found that rapid expansion of commercial aquaculture pegged down fish prices, resulting in increased rates of fish consumption by extreme poor and moderate poor consumers and those in rural areas. The capture fisheries still play a very important but unrecognised role in terms of consumption although this role is fast declining. Aquaculture has helped the poor households to increase fish consumption although they continue to consume proportionately more non-farmed fishes as compared to the non-poor households. These outcomes are closely linked to the pro-poor nature of national economic growth during this period. However, the impact of this growth in farmed fishes on capture fisheries still remains unclear. Aquaculture growth has been encroaching common fishing rights and perhaps stunting the growth of small-indigenous species (SIS) which are vital source of rich nutrients for the poor. Steps should be taken not only to develop the aquaculture sector in a planned way but also to manage the capture fisheries which are increasingly under threat from several strains.

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