WHY ARGENTINES DON'T CONSUME FISH?

"That we Argentines are the ones who, on average, consume the least fish from Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa should draw our attention, when the country has a very large maritime territory, more than twice that of the continental territory.

12 de July de 2023 09:15

We Argentines consume 4.5 kg of fish per year.

In all the conferences and interviews in which we participate, the most frequently asked question is why fish is so expensive in Argentina, which has fishing resources a few kilometers from the coast and, like few places in the world, has ports from where fresh hake, squid and prawns are landed every day, which, once frozen, are exported to Vigo (Spain) and then distributed throughout Europe, so that we can eat there the best squid sandwich in the world in the Plaza Mayor of Madrid coming from our country.
We had the opportunity for years to control the quality and health of twenty tons of fresh fish daily for national distribution from a platform of an important French hypermarket located in Argentina. There is no such concentrated daily volume of “fresh fish” anywhere in the world. world, the most important fishing ports are made up, with high volumes of frozen products unloaded. Argentina has the best conditions for Argentines to consume this extraordinary food, whose essential amino acids are only comparable with breast milk and, its unsaturated fats unbeatable for the health of the cardiovascular system.
Why do Argentines have the lowest per capita consumption of fish, with 4.5 kg per person per year, while in Latin America, the Caribbean and the African continent it reaches 10 kg and the world average is 20 kg? When you ask consumers why Argentines don't eat more fish, they usually answer: it is very expensive and does not give the feeling of satiety of red meat. But, all over the world, fish is expensive and the digestion of fish Fish is easier than most other meat foods. The reasons are other.
Firstly , in Argentina there was never a promotion program for “National Fish Consumption”.95% of Argentine catches are exported and businessmen are not interested in being subject to the government's erratic policies and facing the demands of “controlled prices” in a country with enormous inflation. The Undersecretariat of Fisheries is not Another idea is to promote the 19th of each month as a day of fish consumption, when any nutritionist or cardiologist recommends that their patients consume fish -at least- three times a week and the church historically promotes its consumption on Fridays. , instead of fasting or to abstain from eating meat from warm-blooded animals.
Since Argentines are not in the habit of consuming fish, they are not informed about the organoleptic characteristics of fresh fish and are not trained on gastronomic preparations with this product. This contrasts, for example, with Germany, which despite importing the majority of fish they consume and consume about 14 kg per year, three times more than Argentina, they have specialized chefs who teach Germans how to cook fish for free. Mar del Plata, Argentina's main fishing city, captures and processes anchovies, which, headed, gutted and salted, are exported in barrels to Spain and Italy; but, while that happens, the city's restaurants provide butter or spreadable cheese like ten-ten pie while waiting for the main course, instead of serving a couple of salted anchovy fillets or in oil, which would increase consumption and incorporation into the food culture and the characterization of the city. The Mayors do not understand that Mar del Plata is a port and fishing city; like Córdoba and Santa Fe, they can be dairy basins. Each region of Spain has its paella, according to the raw materials it has at its disposal; despite the fact that Valencians understand that theirs is the original and does not contain prawns. My friend Gil Gallego, a native of Sagunto, is clear that a mistake in the preparation of this dish can be fatal.
We Argentines can choose the best meat for a barbecue; but, about fish, nothing. We will say in a very synthetic way to shed a little light on general knowledge the characteristics of a fresh whole fish (common hake): it must be kept between 0.5 and 2ºC (bad: +6ºC); eyes shiny, elastic and convex (bad: opaque, rigid, concave); the meat has a firm consistency, shiny and adherent scales (bad: soft, leaves pressure on); bright or matte red gills, with a sea or neutral odor (bad: grayish yellow color and ammoniacal or putrid odor); intact viscera (bad: torn, broken). And its fillets: bluish, translucent, shiny (bad: yellowish, pink, reddish, brownish); firm texture (bad: very soft, peels easily); smell of the sea, fresh (bad: unpleasant, ammoniacal); whole fillets, net-edged, regular; flat surfaces, without stains or dehydrated (burned); without remains of viscera or foreign elements (bad: large number of imperfections). , not even the best expert will notice the difference; but, this will be an upcoming subject.
You don't love what you don't know. In Argentina, the purchase of fish - due to the lack of habit - is not planned but reactive, therefore, merchants and inspectors must ensure the exhibition with cold lights and hydrated, identified fish, displayed in an attractive area, provided with clean ice, without unpleasant odors that would indicate the deterioration of the fish that are put up for sale.
Secondly , the governments have remained in the era of the “breadbasket of the world” of the 19th and 20th centuries, but they have lost sight of the fact that Argentina is a Maritime State. A country that is part of the American continent and the Antarctic continent and , whose surface reaches 3,757,124 km2; while its extended continental shelf and the waters of the EEZ occupied by the United Kingdom and those surrounding Antarctica reach 8,029,842 km2. Argentines live with their backs to the sea, while countries with EEZs of less km2 are consumers habitual of this food, like Spain. There is no policy and it could be thought that it is part of the "demalvinization", to prevent Argentines from looking at the sea, and realizing, that instead of having the 11,410 km2 of the Malvinas occupied, the British They invade 1,639,900 km2 of sea.
Thirdly , fishing in Argentina occupies a wrong place in the government structure, which has no link with this activity. Agriculture and livestock are primary production activities, which are very far from the integrated activity of the fishing, of absolutely greater complexity; which is extractive, industrial and exporting. Like very few developed countries in the world, Argentina has its own resources to be self-sufficient.
Fourthly , in Argentina, there is no coordinated policy between the Secretariats of Health and Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries and, therefore, there is no food culture that promotes the consumption of this species to improve the diet and ensure a greater health of Argentines, based on better nutrition with this exceptional food. In the port cities of Argentina, consumption is not higher than in the rest of the country and food assistance programs for vulnerable people do not contemplate the supply of fish. In 1989 did not involve setting up a program among fish canning companies to supply the “National Food Program” (PAN); This not only allowed underprivileged populations access to this food, but also doubled the national production of canned fish and the access of this product to shelves. A successful coordinated task of the producing companies, the Institute of Industrial Technology and the contribution of funds destined for social assistance, which provided health.
Fifthly , although the fishing resource is the domain of the State and it grants exploitation in concession to companies, it does not establish any obligation to supply fishing products to the domestic market when granting permits, which would allow demand to increase. lower the price and increase consumption, incorporating added value to the industry. The price is marked by international demand and is equally expensive in the world; Its value is related to the excellent quality of the protein it has. Its production, to generate the habit and business interest, should be exempt from taxes and even credit the total VAT in favor of the consumer to avoid its absorption by the consumer. businessman.
Even so, to have a larger volume for domestic consumption, it would be necessary to carry out agreements to recover part of the resources that migrate to the high seas and put an end to the discarding of suitable fish, bringing this exceptional protein closer to vulnerable people, who They consume little fish.
The accessible and fair price will bring consumers closer to this food of all Argentines.
Sixthly , Argentina must promote aquaculture. When 50% of world production has this origin, in the country it does not reach 1%. The installation of aquaculture will bring the availability of this food closer to the interior of the country and the consequent increase of consumption and the generation of employment, promoting a greater food culture in territories unaccustomed to the consumption of this species.
Seventhly , Argentina must make it known that its industrial plants and operations comply with the best international standards for the manufacture of high quality and health industrial products; applying HACCP standards and others approved by the most demanding markets and the most rigorous national (SENASA) and global organizations such as the United States FDA; the Veterinary Commission of the European Union and recognized quality certifiers.
Eighthly , fishing catches are made in the Southwest Atlantic, a sea that is free of metals and contaminants; Furthermore, that in the capture, industrialization and trade processes they are free of all additives, preservatives, coloring, etc. which allows us to affirm that, like few foods in the world, it is free of all environmental, chemical or physical contamination.“ “Fish play a very important role as nutrient contributors to marine ecosystems, according to researchers from the University of Georgia and Florida International University” (Beth Gavrilles, 12/11/12). According to the magazine Ecology, they show that fish They provide more nutrients to their local ecosystems than any other source, contributing to trophic ecology (food web); Furthermore, “it has been proven that fishery products are the healthiest source of proteins with the lowest carbon footprint (…) emissions from the fishing sector represent between 0.1% and 0.5% of the total global greenhouse gases.” ” (Garat, Javier, Cepesca and Europêche, Industrias Pesqueras, 4/7/2022).
Ninthly , the participation and economic contribution of the fishing sector is very important in promoting the activity and making visible the virtues of the consumption of fish and seafood. Fish does not have the Marketing of wine and other alcoholic and soft drinks in Argentina. ; of red meat, etc. The Association formed by some of the most important fishing organizations “Pesca España”, through its page “Metapesca.org” is an example to follow of the contribution that the private sector also has to make.On this page it refers to the fact that fish is widely recognized as a source of essential nutrients that is very beneficial for health and general well-being and highlights five reasons to include fish as a food in the regular diet: It is rich in omega-3 fatty acids which, among its health benefits, include reducing the risk of heart disease, improving brain function, and decreasing inflammation in the body. They play a crucial role in brain and eye development in fetuses and young children, which is why consuming fish during pregnancy and breastfeeding is very beneficial. Regular fish consumption is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular diseases . Fatty acids help reduce blood triglyceride levels, lower blood pressure, and improve arterial function. These combined effects help protect the heart and reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular problems. Improves brain health. It is beneficial for brain function and mental health. Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly DHA, is one of the key structural components for the brain and is involved in maintaining cognitive function and mental health. Studies have It has been shown that regular consumption of fish is associated with a lower risk of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and age-related cognitive decline. In addition, it has been observed that omega-3s can improve mood and reduce the risk of depression . It is a source of high quality proteins . It contains all the essential amino acids necessary for the growth and repair of tissues in the human body. Fish proteins are easily digestible and absorbed quickly compared to other animal proteins. It has unsaturated fats , which makes it a healthy option to reduce vascular problems and to facilitate maintaining a healthy weight and developing muscle mass. They benefit eye health. Vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids help prevent age-related macular degeneration and dry eyes.Additionally, these fatty acids contribute to the development and health of the retina, promoting optimal vision throughout life.
Tenthly , fishing production generates intensive labor employment; develops the towns on the maritime and river coast; Its industries are located in unfavorable areas and its ships occupy the Argentine sea.

By Agenda Malvinas

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