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3. Global and regional food consumption patterns and trends: Previous page | 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9

3.5 Availability and consumption of fish

Despite fluctuations in supply and demand caused by the changing state of fisheries resources, the economic climate and environmental conditions, fisheries, including aquaculture, have traditionally been, and remain an important source of food, employment and revenue in many countries and communities (11). After the remarkable increase in both marine and inland capture of fish during the 1950s and 1960s, world fisheries production has levelled off since the 1970s. This levelling off of the total catch follows the general trend of most of the world’s fishing areas, which have apparently reached their maximum potential for fisheries production, with the majority of stocks being fully exploited. It is therefore very unlikely that substantial increases in total catch will be obtained in the future. In contrast, aquaculture production has followed the opposite path. Starting from an insignificant total production, inland and marine aquaculture production has been growing at a remarkable rate, offsetting part of the reduction in the ocean catch of fish.

The total food fish supply and hence consumption has been growing at a rate of 3.6% per year since 1961, while the world’s population has been expanding at 1.8% per year. The proteins derived from fish, crustaceans and molluscs account for between 13.8% and 16.5% of the animal protein intake of the human population. The average apparent per capita consumption increased from about 9 kg per year in the early 1960s to 16 kg in 1997. The per capita availability of fish and fishery products has therefore nearly doubled in 40 years, outpacing population growth.

As well as income-related variations, the role of fish in nutrition shows marked continental, regional and national differences. In industrialized countries, where diets generally contain a more diversified range of animal proteins, a rise in per capita provision from 19.7 kg to 27.7 kg seems to have occurred. This represents a growth rate close to 1% per year. In this group of countries, fish contributed an increasing share of total protein intake until 1989 (accounting for between 6.5% and 8.5%), but since then its importance has gradually declined and, in 1997, its percentage contribution was back to the level prevailing in the mid-1980s. In the early 1960s, per capita fish supply in low-income food-deficit countries was, on average, only 30% of that of the richest countries. This gap has been gradually reduced, such that in 1997, average fish consumption in these countries was 70% of that of the more affluent economies. Despite the relatively low consumption by weight in low-income food-deficit countries, the contribution of fish to total animal protein intake is considerable (nearly 20%). Over the past four decades, however, the share of fish proteins in animal proteins has declined slightly, because of faster growth in the consumption of other animal products.

Currently, two-thirds of the total food fish supply is obtained from capture fisheries in marine and inland waters, while the remaining one third is derived from aquaculture. The contribution of inland and marine capture fisheries to per capita food supply has stabilized, around 10 kg per capita in the period 1984-1998. Any recent increases in per capita availability have, therefore, been obtained from aquaculture production, from both traditional rural aquaculture and intensive commercial aquaculture of high-value species.

Fish contributes up to 180 kcal per capita per day, but reaches such high levels only in a few countries where there is a lack of alternative protein foods grown locally or where there is a strong preference for fish (examples are Iceland, Japan and some small island states). More typically, fish provides about 20-30 kcal per capita per day. Fish proteins are essential in the diet of some densely populated countries where the total protein intake level is low, and are very important in the diets of many other countries. Worldwide, about a billion people rely on fish as their main source of animal proteins. Dependence on fish is usually higher in coastal than in inland areas. About 20% of the world’s population derives at least one-fifth of its animal protein intake from fish, and some small island states depend almost exclusively on fish.

Recommending the increased consumption of fish is another area where the feasibility of dietary recommendations needs to be balanced against concerns for sustainability of marine stocks and the potential depletion of this important marine source of high quality nutritious food. Added to this is the concern that a significant proportion of the world fish catch is transformed into fish meal and used as animal feed in industrial livestock production and thus is not available for human consumption.

3.6 Availability and consumption of fruits and vegetables

Consumption of fruits and vegetables plays a vital role in providing a diversified and nutritious diet. Alow consumption of fruits and vegetables in many regions of the developing world is, however, a persistent phenomenon, confirmed by the findings of food consumption surveys. Nationally representative surveys in India (12), for example, indicate a steady level of consumption of only 120-140 g per capita per day, with about another 100 g per capita coming from roots and tubers, and some 40 g per capita from pulses. This may not be true for urban populations in India, who have rising incomes and greater access to a diverse and varied diet. In contrast, in China, - a country that is undergoing rapid economic growth and transition - the amount of fruits and vegetables consumed has increased to 369 g per capita per day by 1992.

At present, only a small and negligible minority of the world’s population consumes the generally recommended high average intake of fruits and vegetables. In 1998, only 6 of the 14 WHO regions had an availability of fruits and vegetables equal to or greater than the earlier recommended intake of 400 g per capita per day. The relatively favourable situation in 1998 appears to have evolved from a markedly less favourable position in previous years, as evidenced by the great increase in vegetable availability recorded between 1990 and 1998 for most of the regions. In contrast, the availability of fruit generally decreased between 1990 and 1998 in most regions of the world.

The increase in urbanization globally is another challenge. Increasing urbanization will distance more people from primary food production, and in turn have a negative impact on both the availability of a varied and nutritious diet with enough fruits and vegetables, and the access of the urban poor to such a diet. Nevertheless, it may facilitate the achievement of other goals, as those who can afford it can have better access to a diverse and varied diet. Investment in periurban horticulture may provide an opportunity to increase the availability and consumption of a healthy diet.

Global trends in the production and supply of vegetables indicate that the current production and consumption vary widely among regions, as indicated in Table 5. It should be noted that the production of wild and indigenous vegetables is not taken into account in production statistics and might therefore be underestimated in consumption statistics. In 2000, the global annual average per capita vegetable supply was 102 kg, with the highest level in Asia (116 kg), and the lowest levels in South America (48 kg) and Africa (52 kg). These figures also include the large amount of horticultural produce that is consumed on the farm. Table 5 and Figure 3 illustrate the regional and temporal variations in the per capita availability of vegetables per capita over the past few decades.

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