In Malaysia, the aquaculture sector consists of 391,000 tonnes of cultivated animals produced annually with a measure of over USD 724 million (RM 3.1 billion) as estimated in 2019 (Department of Fisheries, Malaysia (DOF), 2020). However, the attack of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 which is often called the COVID-19 pandemic causing a shock to the aquaculture supply chains all over the world and it is currently ongoing, affecting Malaysian aquaculture immensely, which is vital for seafood provision and security assurance. This pandemic has halved demand for aquaculture products such as fishes and crustaceans, and massively disrupted the supply system, leading to the closure of hatchery operations, feed imports to stop, and many other supply chains factors to suffer economic losses from the start of the culture season. It was predicted that the aquaculture supply chain would have regained some extent of operational reliability after recovering from the initial shock but that did not happen. Instead, COVID-19 has led to several complex and long-term challenges to sustain the operation of the aquaculture supply chains.
Global measures were taken by several countries such as the Movement Control Order (MCO), travel bans and limiting several business operations to contain the infection. Unfortunately, this ‘new norm’ remains continuing and has affected agriculture activities in many Asian countries (Hossain, 2020). The MCO measures disrupted the transport of aquaculture inputs and outputs for months and resulted in years. This happened during the starting season of aquaculture operations to harvest and it prevented aquaculture businesses from selling their products, emptying their ponds, and preparing for the new cycle. Instead, they continued to hold their fish within the ponds, limiting their feed during the amount of low demand. Causing a rise in labour cost, feeding duration and transport budgeting. As a result aquaculture farmers suffered serious economic losses early in the year.
The demand for fish and crustaceans from consumers has been significantly reduced to half due to the closure of restaurants and therefore the cancellation of both public and private events. This can be caused by various reasons like the limited circulation of shoppers due to MCO restrictions, the decline in monthly household gross income for many families (especially those who lost employment), and a general trend towards more non-perishable and processed food items. Social distancing and confinement measures also led to many closures of wet markets globally, while trade has been further tormented by border closures and significant declines within the availability, and increases within the cost, of global, air-freight as passenger flights are cancelled. These impacts have created further challenges for the sale of cannon fodder products. The loss of domestic demand has often been further compounded by a collapse in export markets causing demand for raw fish and crustaceans in wet markets to drop while demand for processed products has remained buoyant.
Figure 1 shows workers in RAS Aquaculture grading crabs before selling to the consumers.
Persistence in low demand for aquaculture products and difficulties in reaching the consumers have in turn led to reduced and more volatile prices. Difficulties for producers related to falling demand and prices have been compounded by necessary public health measures taken in response to the pandemic, which has intended to reduce production capacity and increased costs all along supply chains. Further, in some places, COVID-19 has triggered increased demand (and prices) for locally sourced products. For example, small-scale fishers from Lake Victoria in Kenya, have seen prices for their catch rise, as supplies of frozen filleted fish normally imported from China have declined.
The production from the aquaculture sector is eminently diverse with both marine and freshwater products. The continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic, left a massive impact on the aquaculture sector because it relies heavily on labour, inputs, finance and markets. This pandemic also mostly affected aquaculture’s demands in Malaysia through an on the spot effect on sales and causing disruptions in supply chains which will be addressed by exchanging resources in processed products, but with inferences for price and quality. Nevertheless, the economic environment of aquaculture production and markets remains highly volatile and unsure, which necessarily impacts the activities (OECD, 2020).
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