Demand for tilapia resumes growth despite higher prices.

Global tilapia production is expected to increase by 2-4 percent in 2022. Tilapia has recently gained popularity in the international market with its stable supply and relatively low price. Growing demand in North America and the European Union and expanding tilapia farming in Asia and Latin America are expected to widen the trade network, with tilapia sales becoming progressively less centered on the US market.


Market and Trade


Chinese tilapia pricing was unsettled in the first half of 2022, which coincided with a slight drop in exports. Demand for processed fish during holiday gatherings around May Day drives much of the demand in factories in this period, leaving a smaller volume for the retail and export markets.

Exports of frozen whole tilapia decreased by 5 percent year-on-year. African markets, such as Burkina Faso (up 16 percent in volume and up 25 percent in value year-on-year) and Côte d'Ivoire (down 35 percent in volume and down 32 percent in value year-on-year), remain important secondary markets for China’s frozen tilapia, despite increasing investment in domestic tilapia production in African countries.

China has regained its share in the frozen fish market in Europe, with exports to France, the Netherlands, Italy and Sweden hitting a three year high in the second quarter of the year. This is mostly likely due to higher prices and variable supplies for many popular species of white fish, for which tilapia is becoming an increasingly popular substitute.

Elsewhere, Thailand, Viet Nam and Indonesia are increasing production and will likely emerge as strong alternative producers in the coming years. Thailand and Viet Nam roughly doubled their exports of frozen whole tilapia to the US in the second quarter of 2022, with trade peaking at 1.2 tonnes and 0.7 tonnes, respectively. As production has expanded, so too has domestic consumption.


Latin America

Production in Latin America continues to expand, taking advantage proximity to the US market and favourable exchange rates. Colombia and Honduras remain the largest suppliers of chilled tilapia fillets to the US market, reflecting an efficient improvement in tilapia production in these areas. In Brazil, tilapia products represented about 98 percent of Brazilian aquaculture exports. The Brazilian Agricultural Research Company (EMBRAPA) reported that 4 862 tonnes of tilapia worth USD 14.1 million were exported in the first half of 2022. This represents a 32 percent increase in volume and a 133 percent increase in value over the same period last year. Brazil has emerged as a strong contender in frozen whole tilapia market, with exports in the first half of the year increasing in volume by 575 percent over 2021. Reports indicate that domestic demand is strong, implying that there is scope for furthering domestic consumption.

The United States of America

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), total US tilapia imports during the first half of 2022 stood at 89 104 tonnes, up 9.7 percent year-on-year. China remains the largest supplier of the US tilapia market, exporting 58 571 tonnes in the first six months of the year.

Around 90 percent of US imports of frozen fillets are sourced from China, followed by Colombia as the second largest supplier (7 650 tonnes worth USD 45.9 million) and Honduras as the third largest supplier (3.9 tonnes worth USD 35 million). Tariffs on Chinese goods have encouraged an ever-increasing proportion of imports from secondary producers, such as Brazil, Thailand and Viet Nam, which saw sales of frozen whole tilapia to the US increase by 431, 110 and 136 percent, respectively, year-on-year.



Chinese farmgate prices for whole tilapia reached a five-year high. In Guangdong, which accounts for close to 40 percent of China’s tilapia production, live 500-800 g tilapia were selling for CNY 10.58 per kg (USD 1.47 per kg), an increase of 14 percent on last year. In the US domestic market, an above-average inflation rate in the seafood category has resulted in a price jump on fresh and frozen seafood sales, with tilapia’s average costs increased over 20 percent in the first half of 2022. Import prices for frozen and fresh fillets to the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA in this quarter were up 23 and 8 percent year-on-year, respectively. The average price of frozen tilapia fillets in Brazil was quoted as USD 5.46 per kg, while fresh fillets sold for USD 5.26.



Despite price increases, positive global demand for tilapia products and production growth are expected in 2022. Chinese production continues to supply the majority of the global market while other emerging producers in Asia and Latin America are increasingly competitive due to their growing production and tariffs on Chinese exports to the US market. In addition to the North America market, demand in the European Union returned, with greater buyer interest for tilapia products due to soaring prices of other seafood species in the global market. The historic price peak in Q2 2022 is not expected to continue, although a positive price trend is expected, giving great confidence in the tilapia market. Meanwhile, incoming trade negotiations between the United States of America and China will show impacts on the market, potentially reshuffling the tilapia market with emerging strong suppliers and increasing costs in China’s tilapia production.

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