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Science Policy

Fish Is Food - The FAO’s Fish Price Index
Published: Tuesday, May 08, 2012
Author: Sigbjørn Tveterås et al.

by Sigbjørn Tveterås, Frank Asche, Marc F. Bellemare, Martin D. Smith, Atle G. Guttormsen, Audun Lem, Kristin Lien, Stefania Vannuccini

World food prices hit an all-time high in February 2011 and are still almost two and a half times those of 2000. Although three billion people worldwide use seafood as a key source of animal protein, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations–which compiles prices for other major food categories–has not tracked seafood prices. We fill this gap by developing an index of global seafood prices that can help to understand food crises and may assist in averting them. The fish price index (FPI) relies on trade statistics because seafood is heavily traded internationally, exposing non-traded seafood to price competition from imports and exports. Easily updated trade data can thus proxy for domestic seafood prices that are difficult to observe in many regions and costly to update with global coverage. Calculations of the extent of price competition in different countries support the plausibility of reliance on trade data. Overall, the FPI shows less volatility and fewer price spikes than other food price indices including oils, cereals, and dairy. The FPI generally reflects seafood scarcity, but it can also be separated into indices by production technology, fish species, or region. Splitting FPI into capture fisheries and aquaculture suggests increased scarcity of capture fishery resources in recent years, but also growth in aquaculture that is keeping pace with demand. Regionally, seafood price volatility varies, and some prices are negatively correlated. These patterns hint that regional supply shocks are consequential for seafood prices in spite of the high degree of seafood tradability.
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