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Development and Adoption of Traceability System for Fish and Fish Products in Asia

Over the last three decades, technological advances in capture fisheries and aquaculture, globalization trends, and market and consumer demands have resulted in the continued growth in the production and trading of fish and fish products. Along with these trends, traceability has become a major concern of the fishery industries, especially as it became a legitimate requirement in international fish trade and, more recently, in the growth of fish retailing in food supermarket chains. Furthermore, as fisheries and aquaculture production becomes more market and consumer driven, the greatest pressure on traceability has been coming from the general public. People are getting more and more concerned on what they eat - whether the food comes from a sustainable source and produced through eco-friendly methods, and whether production, transportation, and storage conditions can guarantee food safety.

The Codex Alimentarius Commission (2004) defined traceability or product tracing as the ability to follow the movement of a food through specified stage(s) of production, processing and distribution. In an increasingly competitive food system, traceability has become a major tool in dealing with concerns of food safety, quality assurance, risk prevention, and gaining consumer trust. For fish and fish products, however, traceability systems can be complex. They can be used to achieve different purposes or objectives, such as for food safety regulatory requirements or to ensure quality and other contractual requirements. For instance, external traceability allows the tracking of a product and/or attribute(s) of that product through the successive stages of the distribution chain (from boat or fish farm to table), while internal traceability is aimed at productivity improvement and cost reduction within a production unit (e.g. fish plant). In addition, the authentication of traceability system usually rests with different authorities, at the same time that governments/organizations around the world have been developing different standards and guidelines on fish traceability and food safety.

In view of these developments, how can small-scale fish farmers, especially in some Asian developing countries and countries in transition, cope in terms of meeting traceability requirements to enable them to participate and compete in the network of fisheries and aquaculture production, marketing, and trade?

  1. The main objective of this workshop is to provide a venue for the sharing and exchange of knowledge, information, and practical tools toward the development and adoption of a suitable fish and fish products traceability system in Asia, considering the great complexity of the production and distribution chain, as well as the prevailing characteristics of the fish industries in the region.
  2. Specifically, the activity will attempt to deliberate on: the development of traceability systems in the fish supply chain to meet both regulatory and market requirements domestically and internationally; methods of system analysis, technological solutions, data capture and communications along the supply chain; and how all these can be applied within each country's fish industry, eventually toward harmonizing standards and guidelines among trading countries.
  3. Lastly, the workshop shall seek to promote the importance of a traceability system in giving each country in Asia a better opportunity not only in terms of trading, but also in improving overall fish industry management, market position, and competitive edge by ensuring food safety, quality and sustainability of resources. In general, the workshop aims to convene experts from different countries with experiences in bio-agents, and provide a venue to share their expertise in reducing dependence of small-scale farmers on conventional chemical inputs, while maintaining yield and improving the quality and safety of produces.
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