With abundant rivers and a long coastline, the consumption of fish has been growing in Brazil, although the these levels are still not where the industry would like it to be.
The consumption of fish has been increasing worldwide as an alternative to red meat and other types of protein. In Brazil, it is no different; more people are eating fish. In the past eight years, according to data from the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the consumption per capita of fish has grown from 4 kg per year to 9 kg per year in Brazil. This is the same on average as seen in Latin America and the Caribbean as a whole.
These figures might have shown improvement, but it is still less than the 12 kg per year, which is the measure recommended for each individual by the World Health Organization (WHO). The global average consumption is twice that of Brazil: 18 kg per year.
One of the factors capable of facilitating or hindering the consumption of fish in Brazil is the proximity to the supplying regions. The transportation and storage of fresh fish can be very expensive due to the size of the Brazilian territory and various weak points in Brazil’s logistics infrastructure.
Around 80% of fishing activities in Brazil are artisanal. Since most fishermen do not have access to proper refrigeration structures, the products are not sold in regions outside of the producing areas.
When the fish gets to these regions, they are therefore more expensive. The southern region, for example, has one of the lowest rates of fish consumption in the country, mainly because an important share of the fish production in Brazil comes from the Northeast.
Other places, such as areas located in the northern region, include fish as a part of the daily diet, mostly due to the abundance of rivers and, consequently, species. States like Amazonas and Pará, for example, consume local types of fish, such as pirarucu and tambaqui.
Import and Export
To supply the increasing demand to the Brazilian market, local production has increased. However, the import of fish is still the main source. The Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture stipulates that 60% of all fish consumed in Brazil come from other nations.
In 2013, around BRL 1.4 billion was spent importing fish from countries like Chile, Norway and China. That represents a growth of nearly 15% in comparison to the year before.
States from the southeastern region have higher import levels, since they are the largest consumers of salmon and cod. However, many other locations, such as states from the south and from the northeast, also import fish in significant amounts.
A large portion of Brazilian fish production is sold locally, which affects export levels: Brazil is not particularly known as a great fish exporter. Unlike some types of shrimp and ornamental species, Brazilian fish struggle to reach the foreign market, having resulted in only BRL 243 million in 2013. A few exceptions are Brazilian sardines, cavalinha and mullet.
Most Consumed Species
It is possible to divide the Brazilian consumption of fish into two different groups: the local species, traditionally from the country; and the imported species, that usually are sold already industrialized, cut or frozen.
Some of the most consumed local species of fish in Brazil are:
- Tilapia (tilápia)
- Sardine (sardinha)
- Mullet (tainha)
- Sole (linguado)
- Seabass (robalo)
- Dogfish (cação)
The most consumed imported species are traditionally from Norway, Chile and Argentina. However, over the past few years, fish from China and Vietnam are being sold in Brazilian supermarkets.
Many question the quality of the fish from Asian countries, since some are taken from polluted rivers. Nevertheless, the low prices of such species have been attracting consumers, especially the ones with lower purchasing power.
Some of the most consumed imported species of fish in Brazil are:
- Salmon from Chile
- Cod from Norway
- Merluza from Argentina and China
- Panga from Vietnam