GLOBEFISH - Information and Analysis on World Fish Trade

Tilapia major markets slow, global demand driven by new markets



Industry sources report that the likely decline in production during 2016  is due to the continuous decline in prices as well as adverse weather conditions. On average, export prices in US dollar per kg declined by 10.7 percent for frozen fillets, 6 percent fpor breaded tilapia and 4.3 percent for whole frozen products. According to China Customs, during January–September 2016, the country exported over 281 600 tonnes of frozen tilapia (whole, fillets and breaded) an increase of +3.4 percent compared with the same time period last year.

The USA remains the single largest market for Chinese tilapia. In the long-term, African markets will be increasingly absorbing more tilapia, although for the first nine months of 2016 Chinese exports to African countries overall remained stagnant (-0.1 percent lower compared with the same period in 2015).  Nearly 80 percent of Chinese exports to Africa were comprised of whole frozen tilapia followed by 17 percent breaded tilapia and the remaining frozen fillets. The largest importing countries in Africa were Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, Zambia and Cameroon.

The demand for whole frozen tilapia appears to be picking up with supplies increasing from China as well as from Taiwan Province of China. These supplies fulfill Asian and Latin American consumer demand.


The USA imported nearly 10 percent less tilapia during the first nine months of 2016 compared with the same time period last year. This decline is mostly for lower imports of frozen fillets, particularly from China. Although imports for Chinese whole frozen increased, this did not make up for the overall decline. In addition, wholesale prices of frozen fillets from China have been on the decline, 2.6 percent down from a year ago and about 20 percent down from 2014 due to the weakening of the yuan against the US dollar.

Interestingly, the USA also reported increasing whole frozen tilapia imports from Mexico and the Philippines.

Latin America

As with other international trade sectors, Latin American tilapia exporters are now poised for great uncertainty with the seemingly protectionist speech of the new US President, Donald Trump. The USA is the one of the top importers of fresh tilapia from the region, mainly from Costa Rica, Ecuador and Honduras. Concurrently, there is also concern in Latin America about the competition from Asian tilapia products in their domestic market. In terms of supplies, Ecuador has seen a significant decline in tilapia production, largely due to the lower prices of tilapia from other Central American countries offered in the USA. Ecuador projects that its tilapia sector, which generated US$60 million in 2007, may not reach US$15 million by the close of 2016.

In Honduras, fresh tilapia exports to the USA, Europe and Asia are predicted to total over 9 500 tonnes in 2016, valued at about US$70 million. 


From January to August 2016, the market for tilapia in the EU continued to weaken as total imports (whole frozen and frozen fillets) fell nearly 9 percent from the same time period a year ago and 19 percent from 2014, totaling 9 400 tonnes of frozen fillets and 7 700 tonnes of whole frozen tilapia. Supplies declined from almost all major sources (primarily Asia) except for increases from Taiwan Province of China.


Overall tilapia exports from Taiwan Province of China were up 7.5 percent during the period, with supplies channelled to the USA, Canada, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. Taiwan Province of China supplied 18.5 percent more whole frozen tilapia to the USA than during the same time period last year.

Saudi Arabia is Taiwan Province of China’s second largest market for tilapia, importing a total of 1 300 tonnes of tilapia during the January–September 2016 review period.

According to the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Processors (VASEP), tilapia exports are expected to increase significantly in 2016, possibly recording revenues of US$45 million, 32 percent more over 2015. This climbing trend is expected to  continue in the coming years. The USA is being targeted as the largest market, taking a 23 percent market share, while Africa and Latin America are other potential markets to be reached. Although tilapia accounts for a modest percentage in the country’s fishery exports overall, its room for growth and positive forecasts make it a possible major fishery export product for the future. Indeed, in June 2016 the Directorate of Fisheries announced that Viet Nam was planning to develop tilapia into a major fishery export product, given the country’s advantages in raising this type of fish and anticipated high consumption demand at home and in global markets.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Rural Development in Viet Nam recently announced a plan of achieving a tilapia output of around 300 000 tonnes by 2020, 50–60 percent of which will be destined for exports.


The report analyses the market situation over the period January-December 2016

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