TiLV threatens food security


The report analyses the market situation during the first quarter 2017

An estimated 180 000 tonnes of tilapia (whole and fillet frozen) were traded in the international market during January-March 2017, approximately 10 percent lower in volume from a year ago. The leading importers tilapia were the United States of America, Mexico, Côte d'Ivoire and Iran, and the leading exporters were China, Taiwan Province of China, Thailand and Indonesia.

TiLV, a highly contagious disease, is spreading among farmed and wild tilapia. It has now been reported in five countries. While the pathogen poses no public health concern, it may destroy huge infected stocks which are a source of food security and nutrition.


During the first quarter of 2017, total Chinese tilapia exports increased by nearly 7 percent from the same period in 2016 to reach 80 600 tonnes, according China Customs. Whole frozen and breaded tilapia fillet continued to be main contributor to the export growth while frozen fillet exports are slowing down. Total exports to the United States of America fell by 11 percent to 27 572 tonnes with significant declines of frozen fillet, whole frozen and breaded fillet categories.

Average export prices frozen tilapia in 2017, average export prices of frozen tilapia weakened by 2.51 percent, while prices of whole frozen tilapia increased 0.52 percent, to US$2.03 per kg. Frozen fillet prices decreased by 4.76 percent to US$3.40 per kg. and breaded filled decreased by 1.31 percent, to US$3.84 per kg.

United States of America

The market remained depressed during the first quarter of 2017 with about a 26 percent decline in frozen tilapia imports from a year ago. Imports fell significantly from the leading supplier China as well as from most other sources. Contrary to what was anticipated, the Lent demand did not seem to have had a positive impact to weakening market. While average frozen fillet import prices softened by 8.3 percent during the review period, average import prices for whole frozen tilapia remained firm.

Latin America

Tilapia production continues throughout the continent. Panama is starting a project to develop the production of red tilapia (Oreochromis sp.) in order to meet domestic demand, due to its popularity among consumers. The current production and sale of red tilapia fingerlings in Panama is reduced, and more producers are being encouraged to produce the species.

Cuba also launched a project to increase the production of this fish for human consumption at the National Marine Park of Los Caimanes, sponsored by the Global Environment Facility. In the area, there are more than eight species of algae. This method is profitable because the cost of production does not exceed 20 percent of total income.

Honduras seeks to increase tilapia production and incomes for fishers from San Lorenzo in the waters of the Gulf of Fonseca (south of the country) by installing floating cages, training people and organizing cooperatives. The initiative is developed with technical and financial support from China, Taiwan Province of China and Honduras. The General Directorate of Fisheries and Aquaculture forecasts an annual production exceeding 100 tonnes of tilapia.

According to a recent study by the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA), the average price of whole tilapia was R$14.44 per kg in the first quarter of 2017 (a 9 percent increase over the same period of last year) while frozen fillet prices recovered the value of the same period of last year and reached R$35.31 per kg, i.e. a 29 percent increase compared to the first four months of 2015. During the period under revision, 182 tonnes of fillets amounting to US$1.3 million were exported, a 3.5 percent decrease in terms of volume and a 10 percent decrease in terms of value compared to the exports of the same period of last year. All of this fish was shipped to the United States of America.

Mexican producers are very concerned about the entry of Chinese tilapia into the country, which they consider to be of lower quality as well as about tariff irregularities and possible sanitary risks. Imports are estimated to double national production. Some stakeholders believe that the industry cannot grow because of the impact of imports, yet imports cannot be stopped because there is no capacity to supply the market. In some cases, the Mexican tilapia is more expensive because production costs are higher in the country. Mexico aims to increase production by up to 10 percent and create a collective brand.

The Middle East

The Middle East is the largest market for frozen tilapia from India with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as the largest. Exports of whole frozen tilapia increased by 4.18 percent to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) reaching 329 tonnes during the first quarter of 2017 compared from a year ago. Total tilapia exports from India to the Middle East strengthened by a marginal 1 percent to reach 505 tonnes. India has plans to meet the huge demand for the fish in the domestic market and to capture a significant share of global export trade by promoting large scale farming of the fish even in landlocked states. The Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA) is expecting to raise the production of tilapia output in the country by increasing the seed supply of genetically improved farmed tilapia (GIFT) to the farmers. It recently launched a self-sufficiency project at its hatchery and training complex in Kochi to help farmers export their produce. A leading seafood exporter has plans to invest Rs 100 crores in rearing tilapia in cages in two lakes in Maharashtra and one in Rajasthan in the next four years and encourage consumption of tilapia in hotels and restaurant by supplying live fish.
Exports from Taiwan Province of China to the region weakened by 43 percent to 808 tonnes from a year ago due to significant declines in exports to Kuwait.

European Union

During January – March 2017, total tilapia imports into the European Union weakened further by 2.6 percent to total 6 434 tonnes from the same period in 2016. Total imports comprised 60 percent of frozen fillet and 40 percent of whole frozen tilapia, with a 4.55 percent decline in imports of frozen fillet and a marginal rise (0.4 percent) of whole frozen tilapia. Within the EU, Spain imports the largest volume of tilapia, mostly fillets with a 35 percent increase in imports during the review period. This is followed by the United Kingdom, France and Germany. Asia remains the main supply source with the top five suppliers being China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia making up nearly 99 percent of the total. The strengthened premium quality fillet from Taiwan saw a 51 percent decline in its imports.

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