A latest study on Malawi’s fish variety tilapia (chambo) in urban areas has shown that the commodity is more expensive, forcing the poor to opt for cheaper fish products or substitutes such as usipa.
The study found that it costs at a least K1 000 for just one fresh chambo while bigger ones sell at as high as K3 000 each on the local market.
With the same K1 000, one can buy a five-litre bucket of dried usipa, making it affordable for the poor with larger families.
The study shows that higher incomes increase frequency of fish consumption and the likelihood of consuming more tilapia products, further indicating that consumer choice is influenced by household income and access to fish price and market information.
Titled Consumer Choices and Demand for Tilapia in Urban Malawi: What Are the Complementarities and Trade-offs, the study also shows that sex and years of schooling of the decision-maker and frequency of fish consumption helps to influence the decisions.
The study was conducted by researchers at the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the International Food Policy Research Institute.
Reads the research in part: “Tilapia is becoming more expensive in Malawi because there are less good-sized tilapias in the wild, but more good-sized ones under aquaculture. Higher prices incentivise greater investment in the tilapia value chain, especially among traders.
“Richer households can afford the expensive imported or locally farmed tilapias. But what do higher prices mean for poor households in urban and rural areas? In Malawi, most poor households consume cheaper fish such as usipa, utaka, and ndunduma, which are smaller but equally nutritious and abundant in the wild.”
The study has suggested development of a robust tilapia value chain, which requires exploiting the complementarities and trade-offs and policy support to boost tilapia production, lower prices and increase access to fish price and market information.
Ministry of Forestry and Natural Resources director of fisheries Friday Njaya was not immediately available to comment on the findings of the study.
However, in March this year, the Malawi government launched a K13.3 billion fisheries project to help replenish fish population and offer jobs to Malawians.
The 2020 Malawi Government Annual Economic Report shows that the fisheries sector contributes about four percent to the gross domestic product, employs about 63 023 people annually and supports and 1.6 million people.
Fish accounts for roughly 40 percent of protein intake and 70 percent of animal protein intake in Malawi diets.