Welcome to the United Nations. It's your world.
United Nations Development AccountUnited Nations Headquarters New York

Development Account Projects

Building the capacities of selected least developed countries to upgrade and diversify their fish exportss


Fisheries constitute a sector that holds considerable potential for the diversification and development of the economies of least developed countries. UNCTAD has identified fish and fishery products as among the most important dynamic commodity products for least developed countries, with respect to which several least developed countries have comparative advantages. In addition, the fishing industry has strong linkages to the rest of the economy and generates employment opportunities. The fishery sector is also important in terms of improving food security and achieving environmental sustainability.

Notwithstanding the importance of the sector (in 14 of the 48 least developed countries, fish exports are ranked among the top five merchandise exports), it is often underdeveloped and unexploited. While traditional supply-side problems persist in countries covered by the project, international standards are among the key demand-side constraints undermining the fish sectors of several least developed countries. International standards — mandatory and voluntary, private (industry) or public — are mushrooming, posing considerable challenges for least developed countries in unlocking their export potential. In principle, countries resort to imposing mandatory standards to ensure that imported products conform to standards deemed necessary for the protection of the health and safety of their people or for the preservation of their environment. Countries also require that imported agricultural and fishery products comply with their national sanitary and phytosanitary measure regulations, with the primary aim of protecting human, animal or plant life or health from diseases that may be brought in with imported agricultural products. The project is intended to upgrade technical knowledge and expertise in beneficiary countries in order to overcome challenges posed by international standards relating to fish exports. It will also involve the investigation of how international standards, regulations and measures in the areas of fish and fishery products affect the exports and international competitiveness of least developed countries. Finally, it will include the recommendation of policies and strategies for implementation with a view to improving capacity to comply with international standards and enhancing the capacities of least developed countries to develop and diversify their exports by tapping their fishery potential. This is particularly important because stringent requirements in importing countries continue to undermine exports of fish and fish products, which in turn limits the export baskets of several least developed countries to a few primary commodities.

Under the project, work is planned in five least developed countries: tentatively, Bangladesh, Cambodia, the Comoros, Sierra Leone and Uganda. Those countries have been requesting technical assistance, including through their respective national statements to the Trade and Development Board aimed at addressing the impact of international standards on their fisheries exports. The main beneficiaries of the project will include fishers, fish processors, packaging agencies, fish exporters and associations and relevant government agencies (e.g., ministries of trade and national standards agencies). The targeting of both private and public sector actors involved in the fishery sector is conducive to coordination among various stakeholders in pursuing the upgrading and diversification of fish exports. The target markets to be examined include primarily the European Union and the United States of America, as those two markets have stringent food safety requirements and environmental standards. In the developing regions, efforts will also be made to examine the impact of national standards on fish imports, with a special emphasis on China, whose fish imports from least developed countries have been growing continuously in recent years.

The project will be implemented in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), ECA, ESCAP and the Royal Tropical Institute of the Netherlands. UNCTAD and the Institute will be lead organizations in implementing the project, whereas ECA and ESCAP will provide technical and substantive support for the implementation of the project, drawing on their regional expertise.


To strengthen the capacity of private and public stakeholders in selected least developed countries to upgrade and diversify their fish exports, including by improving sanitary and phytosanitary standards

Expected accomplishments:

  • Increased expertise and technical knowledge of Governments to formulate and implement export development and diversification strategies to tap fishery potential existing in selected least developed countries
  • Improved capacity of Governments and the private sector in selected least developed countries to upgrade standards and comply with international food safety and related sanitary and phytosanitary standards

Implementation status:

Summary of the progress report for 2014

The following activities have taken place/ are ongoing:

  • Data and relevant statistical information on global fisheries trade has been compiled;
  • The relative position of LDCs in global fisheries trade has determined;
  • Terms of Reference for international consultants developed;
  • Permanent missions and relevant government institutions from target countries sensitized about the case studies and international consultant identified.
  • Comprehensive study including case studies on the target countries (Bangladesh, Cambodia, Comoros, Sierra Leone and Uganda) completed.
  • The study is in the process of being reviewed to synthesize policy lessons, best practices as well as successful and less successful experiences;
  • The study and synthesis of policy lessons will serve as background documentation for subsequent training and capacity building workshops.