Strong demand for fishmeal
World fishmeal production in 2006, at 5 million
tonnes, was 20% below average levels-a consequence of climatic conditions and
reduced fishing effort to conserve stocks. Prices virtually doubled as a result,
driven by continued strong demand in expanding worldwide aquaculture
Feed makers still recognise the nutritional benefits of fishmeal. Despite
high prices and availability of synthetic alternatives, fishmeal continues to be
viewed as a vital feed ingredient for farm livestock, and is still widely used
in pig and poultry diets.
In the UK, for example, official UK
statistics show 2006 consumption on a par with 2005, and a recent FIN (Fishmeal Information Network) survey of
pig producers confirmed that fishmeal is still widely used in pig feeds,
especially in medication-free weaner and early grower
At an average price ratio
of 1:5 against soy meal, fishmeal's continued inclusion defies all previous
rules of thumb, yet farmers point to its critical role as an 'insurance policy'
in maintaining fertility and herd health.
Fishmeal prices have now
peaked and are forecast to come down this year with a return to more normal
production levels of 6 to 6.5 million tonnes.
But high prices have not been the only challenge. In 2001,
feeding fishmeal to ruminants in the EU was banned as part of BSE control
measures. Initial concerns that fishmeal could contain infected meat and bone
meal fuelled wider political debate about the sustainability of fish stocks and
the ethics of feeding non-vegetable proteins to farm livestock.
unique partnership between GAFTA and the Sea Fish Industry Authority, FIN
was set up to promote fishmeal in the face of such pressures.
on factual evidence and independent sources of information, FIN has consistently
highlighted the quality and integrity of fishmeal, its production and its
responsible sourcing from managed non-food fish stocks and food fish
With no scientific evidence
to link fishmeal with BSE-type conditions, FIN
has supported efforts to keep fishmeal on the European agenda since the 2001
In December 2006, a common text was finally agreed between the
EU parliament and Council which paves the way, firstly for fishmeal to be used
in multi-species mills, and secondly for fishmeal to be permitted once again in
the diets of young ruminants. This will be welcome news for many livestock
The effects of fishmeal's withdrawal from ruminant feed were
highlighted in a recent FIN survey of Scottish hill sheep farmers, more than 90%
of whom wanted to use fishmeal again.
Most had encountered major
difficulties in maintaining the milkiness of ewes without fishmeal, and some
reported an increase in serious welfare problems, including lamb mortality and
hypocalcaemia, or 'staggers' in breeding ewes.
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