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The worldwide growth in the production and harvesting of tilapia and its popularity as a convenient and competitive whitefish species continued to reach new levels in 2010. Worldwide production is predicted to reach 3.7 million tonnes by the end of the year.

Third International Conference on tilapia

During the INFOFISH Tilapia 2010 conference in Kuala Lumpur towards the end of October 2010, it was forecast that global tilapia production would reach 3.7 million tonnes by the end of 2010. Chinese production is likely to remain steady at between 1.1 and 1.2 million tonnes while other countries have managed to increase their production. Any future increase in production will almost certainly come from aquaculture which has been steadily increasing over the years. Capture production is relatively small compared with aquaculture and fell back slightly to 755 362 tonnes in 2008. Global tilapia aquaculture production in 2008 stood at nearly 2.8 million tonnes.

Asia: Supplies and Markets

Major producing countries in Asia such as Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia and Bangladesh are absorbing much of their local production in domestic markets. This is being further encouraged by governments’ promotion of tilapia consumption. The Philippines’ Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) recently financed a project in conjunction with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in an effort to gain better value for tilapia products. Tilapia production in Malaysia goes almost entirely to the domestic market to support strong local demand. Currently, live tilapia is sold at about USD 4.00/kg in the traditional wet markets. Supermarket prices are 50% higher. In Bangladesh, farmed tilapia is relatively new in the market but its popularity is rapidly increasing among urban residents. Industry sources report a production of some 500 000 tonnes of tilapia and pangasius annually. In the retail market, the price of whole fresh tilapia ranges from BDT 90-120 (USD 1.30-2.00) per kilogram. Farmers also get good return at USD 0.90-1.25/kg for their fish. Some tilapia is exported to the Middle East and the USA. Dressed fish weighing 500-600 gram fetches USD 2.10/kg, cfr in the Middle East market. Demand for freshwater fish including tilapia picked up in India particularly after the oil spill incident off the Mumbai coast, when consumers feared that marine fish would become contaminated. Tilapia fillet is imported by local distributors and demand is rising particularly in the catering trade. Fish consumption in India has been growing in recent years as the economy strengthens and consumers look for new options. There is also a growing niche market for organic fish in east Asia’s tilapia market as consumers worry about the presence of antibiotics and the possibilities of genetically modified fish in aquaculture products. Better off customers are willing to pay higher prices for the reassurance that comes with organic products. Tilapia production in China is expected to be 1.2 million tonnes in 2010,decreasing by almost 13% over 2009. Growing local demand will mean that greater quantities will be absorbed by the domestic market. Demand from export markets is expected to be good. China’s tilapia exports, in spite of the severe weather conditions earlier in the year, reached nearly 250 000 tonnes in the first ten months of 2010, 24% higher than the previous year. Frozen fillet continued to dominate supplies with a total of 144 439 tonnes. Higher export volumes went to the USA and Mexico, the two main markets, during this period. Prices of tilapia also moved up as a result of lower production in 2010, Lower production was caused partly by the cold weather but also by the bacterial disease streptococcus. Frozen tilapia fillet prices strengthened by 7.2% to USD 3.53/kg from the same period 2009. Greater volumes also went to African nations such as Cote d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Angola, Congo, Namibia and Zambia, which imported more tilapia. Fillet markets have expanded in Poland, Spain, Germany, Canada and Ukraine. Russia’s imports dropped 15%, as the country imported less tilapia in an effort to promote local fish. Once the leading supplier, tilapia exports from Taiwan Province of China are slowly rising, particularly for sashimi quality fillet izumidae, which is gaining popularity in the sushi and sashimi trade. The Taiwan Fisheries Agency had instigated a subsidy plan to encourage local tilapia farmers to co-operate with seafood processing companies in increasing the export of skinless, boneless tilapia fillets that could fetch prices as high as USD 6.50/kg, FOB. From January to September 2010, Taiwan Province of China exported 24 566 tonnes of whole tilapia and an additional 2 945 tonnes of tilapia fillets and steaks. The USA market absorbed nearly 54% of the total tilapia exports from Taiwan Province of China.

Growing demand in the USA

Demand for tilapia continues to grow in the US, the single largest market for tilapia. In the first ten months of 2010 a 15% growth in total tilapia imports was recorded, compared with the year before. China supplied some 72% of these imports, dominated by frozen tilapia fillet, followed by Taiwan Province of China, Indonesia and Ecuador. Latin American countries contributed the largest supplies of fresh tilapia fillet with Ecuador, Honduras and Costa Rica the leading suppliers. Ecuador exported 15% less in 2010 compared with the year before. Honduras, however, supplied USD 48 million worth of tilapia, 5% more that same period in 2009. European market for tilapia still relatively small From January to August 2010, a total of 12 235 tonnes of tilapia was imported into the EU with nearly 90% coming from China. Spain imported about 2 100 tonnes of frozen tilapia fillet. For the first time, locally farmed tilapia is now available in the UK, produced by The Fish Company from farms in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire. The fish has been introduced at all TESCO stores throughout the UK and is being used by caterer M&J Seafood as well as available in fish markets. Up to the third quarter of 2010, the UK imported 332 tonnes of frozen tilapia fillet.


Tilapia prices strengthened in many markets during 2010 along with steady demand and moderate supplies. Domestic markets in major producing countries will continue to absorb more production as national currencies strengthen against the US dollar. Higher production of processed and value added tilapia is expected to take place in China although production costs are forecast to rise with higher processing and labour costs. The problem of the bacterial disease affecting tilapia production in China needs to be addressed and the development of a vaccine seems to be the only solution.







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