Food and Agriculture Organisation

The latest FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation) world statistics for both imports and exports of ornamental fish have been recently released. Although we are now well into 2012, the figures relate to 2009 (for technical reasons, it takes this long for data to be collected, collated and updated).

At a quoted value of US$59,940,000,Singapore once again tops the list of exporting countries. This figure marks a drop from 2008 (US$68,706,000), but still easily outstrips those of its nearest competitors. In fact,Singaporestill commands a healthy lead, accounting for 18.4% of the total 2009 value of world ornamental fish exports, which amount to US$326,667,000 (consisting of both freshwater and marine ornamental aquatic organisms).

On the import front, the FAO statistics show thatSingaporeimported US$23,336,000 worth of ornamentals in 2009, accounting for just 6.3% of the world total of US$371,426,000 and, thus, clearly demonstrating its predominantly exporting nature.

While, at first sight, the decline in the value of exports may seem a little disappointing to some, one needs to bear very much in mind that we are still in the middle of a serious world economic crisis, with some of the major traditional markets forSingaporeornamental fish being particularly hard hit.

As a result, there has been a detectable shift in buying trends among consumers with regard to ornamental fish. According to Aquarama consultant, John Dawes, “Specialist fishkeepers will always be prepared to spend a little extra in order to obtain their pedigree specialist fish. However, the bulk of the fish-buying public is represented by non-specialists and these are tending, more and more, to go for the more inexpensive, colourful, so-called ‘bread-and-butter’ fish. So, while the pubic is still buying fish…and doing so in large quantities…it does not appear to be spending as much on individual higher-priced specimens as they used to.”

This trend is best represented by the Japanese export figure, which has increased from US$22,352,000 in 2008, to US$30,075,000 in 2009.Japanis, perhaps, the best-known ‘specialist’ fish producer and supplier, with its famed pedigree koi being highly sought after by specialist hobbyists the world over…crisis or no crisis. It is therefore worth noting thatJapanis the only exporting country that has shown any significant increase in exports between 2008 and 2009. All the other leaders have either experienced a drop in the value of their exports, or have more or less stood still.

Encouragingly, though, and despite the ongoing unfavourable economic climate, Singapore still stands ‘tallest among the tall’, leading the way yet again, just as it has done for so many years.

Footnote: The FAO statistics placeSpain in second spot with regard to ornamental fish exports. However, this figure is widely believed to be anomalous and could be the result of some submission or recording error made some years ago (2002) but still, somehow, passed on down the line. It is interesting to note that the 2002 export figure forSpain was just US$3,579,000, while that for 2009 is quoted as US$46,836,000, indicating a staggering jump of US$43,257,000 in just seven years!

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