Tilapia accounts for 3.3 mt of global fish production and Thailand is currently the fourth largest world producer of tilapia, exporting around 0.9 mt of its 178,000 mt produced.
China is the biggest competitor for Thailand as it exports around 21.5 per cent of its 258,000 mt production. Despite the quality of the fish being the same as Thailand’s, the sector reicieves government subsidies allowing it to export at lower prices.
Malaysia is also a growing tilapia producer and competitor thanks to its control of fish feed prices, something which Thailand cannot do.
In 2011, Thailand suffered heavy flooding, forcing tilapia production down to 139,000 mt. By 2012 however, this was back up to 178,000 mt and in 2013 it is forecast to have further growth to 200,000 mt due to good pricing. Around ten per cent of this production will go to the local market, with the remaining 90 per cent heading to export.
For Thailand to further improve its potential from exports, it needs to find new markets other than the US. The EU market is promising but it requires strict hygiene and safety rules.
Mr Chidchomsrichantra said that farmers need to make sure their fish are produced to a good quality and that they comply with standards and certifications.
He also stated that it is currently being discussed how best to expand the country’s export market. A focus on by and value added products could make this happen.
Government support and investment is needed to make more use of tilapia for leather goods, cosmetics, pharmaceauticals, a replacement fishmeal protein source, ready to eat products and for an omeaga source added to orange juice drinks.
Other improvements required to drive the tilapia industry also include:
- Breeding programme improvement for resistance to heat and salt
- Disease prevention
- Support to be able to compete in the global market.