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Tilapia became the fourth favourite seafood in the USA in 2010, moving up one notch from its previous fifth position. However, imports have slowed during the third quarter of 2011.

Worldwide demand continues to grow for this affordable fish with producing countries increasingly supplying to  domestic markets. Growing demand for tilapia has also encouraged production among small producers.


Frozen fillet exports, the largest export segment  for tilapia, declined by 21% while exports of whole frozen and breaded products posted growths of 51% and 8% respectively. Export of other product categories, however, resulted in marginal growth in total tilapia exports during this period, up by only 1.6% from a year ago. Low supplies were largely the result of high mortality during the severe weather conditions in early 2011.

Shipments to the USA, the largest market for Chinese tilapia, declined by 14%, Exports to Mexico showed only a marginal decline. Interestingly, higher exports went to Israel, Cote d’Ivoire, Cameroon, France and Germany. 


Imports of fresh tilapia fillet into the US market posted negative growth last year because of lower supply, particularly from Costa Rica, and declining consumer demand. Up to September 2011, imports of fresh tilapia fillet fell by 10.3% in quantity and 9.3% in value over the same period of 2010. Imports from Costa Rica, one of the main suppliers, dropped sharply by 62% from over 4 600 tonnes in 2010 to around 1 740 tonnes last year. Although there were more supplies coming from Ecuador (+2.1%), Honduras (12.8%) and Colombia (12.9%), they were unable to offset the lower supply from Costa Rica. Demand for high value fresh tilapia fillet in the US has been on the decline in the last year as the struggling US economy has shifted consumers’ choice toward cheaper alternative products. Total imports of tilapia products (fresh and frozen) were also lower by 10.7% in quantity and 2.8% in value during the reporting period amounting to 134 445 tonnes valued at USD 597 million.

Similarly the market for frozen fillet also declined and inventories continue to be closely monitored.


In the third quarter of 2011, the EU imported 15 832 tonnes of tilapia, up marginally by 4% from the same period in 2010. The markets were largely supplied by China; about 12 265 tonnes of tilapia were imported from China, slightly lower than in 2010. Although far behind China, Indonesia is the second largest exporter of tilapia to the EU and has been showing positive growth.

Spain maintained its position as the top importer of tilapia in the EU market, importing 3 522 tonnes followed by Poland (2 267 tonnes). 

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