Global consumption of seafood and associated trade volumes
have risen dramatically over the last decade due to rising population,
growing affluence and changing eating habits. Today, more
than half of all seafood is internationally traded with net transfers
from developing to developed countries.
Tilapia is a worldwide fish of great commercial importance. In China, tilapia is an important species with annual production of more than 1.3 mmt, which accounted for about 45% of the total tilapia production in the world in 2008. Guangdong, Hainan and Guangxi Provinces ranked top three in annual production in China. However, with over two decades of rapid growth, tilapia aquaculture in China has been facing many challenges in the past years.
To better contextualize and understand the sustainability
constraints facing Chinas aquaculture sector, the authors explored the perspectives of different
stakeholders along the value chain over
12 months during 2010-2011. Their
study was sponsored by the Sustaining
Ethical Aquaculture Trade project, the Science and Technology
Commission of Shanghai Municipality and the National Natural
Science Foundation of China.
The work included analysis of production trends at national and district levels, a multidisciplinary survey of 206 tilapia farmers and key informant interviews with regulatory institutions and different actors along the value chain. The farm survey, conducted in Maoming and Zhanjiang District in Guandong Province, and neighboring Hainan Province, was stratified according to farm scale and the three most prevalent farming systems: reservoir farming, pond polyculture with carp and shrimp, and (in Maoming only) pond polyculture integrated with pig production.
Farms were classified as large (25), medium (47) or small (134) according to the numbers of full-time salaried employees, ownership, enterprise integration, management characteristics and CIQ certification status a requisite for selling to processors supplying international markets. Seventy of these farms were revisited in 2011 for further in-depth survey.
Through these activities, the authors summarized that the sustainable development of the tilapia industry mainly depends on the market price of products, disease control, water quality, climate, seed supply and seed quality.
Low Market Prices
The market price of tilapia has changed drastically over the
past few years. In 2009, the market price of 500-g live tilapia
from farmers dropped to only 7 yuan/kg (U.S. $0.16/kg). In
response, many tilapia farmers began to stock carp or other species
instead of tilapia. The culture area in Guangdong, Guangxi,
Hainan and Fujian Provinces also declined.
In early 2011, market prices reached 10 yuan/kg, but the situation was still marginal for farmers. Among the tilapia farms visited just after the first harvest, a small number were considering restocking with another species. In 2011, integrated farms were more resilient, with profits from pigs compensating to some extent for the loss from tilapia. But for farmers raising tilapia as stand-alone enterprises, an estimated 50% suffered a loss.
The incidence and severity of disease appears to have increased in recent years. Streptococcus infection and hepatobiliary syndrome are the major diseases affecting tilapia. In 2009 and 2010, farmers linked high fish mortality to the above-average summer temperatures over 35 C in these years. In 2009, more than 50% of farms were affected in Hainan, and between July and August 2010, Hainan was also affected. In the summer of 2011, more than 90% of the 30 households sampled in Maoming, Guangdong, were hit by disease.
Extreme weather events have negatively impacted tilapia
production in recent years. While high summer temperatures
may have increased disease-related losses of tilapia, the very low
temperatures at the beginning of 2008 directly reduced tilapia
output 25% or about 230,000 mt from 2007 levels.
The typhoon that ravaged western coastal areas of Guangdong at the end of July 2010 was believed to have encouraged the spread of disease in October 2010. The typhoon also directly damaged the tilapia ponds and caused the escapes of hundreds of thousands of broodstock and millions of growout fish from the farms. In October 2010, typhoon Megi ravaged Hainan and devastated 80% of its farms.
Water management is another sustainability issue for the
tilapia value chain, especially among producers located away
from reliable water sources. Probably linked to increasing intensification
and the greater use of formulated diets, farmers are
attempting to manage their water quality better.
The use of water quality test kits has become common. In spite of this, controlling the primary productivity of water has become a challenge, especially for integrated enterprises. Sufficient water resources are also needed, since in dry seasons, water is also prioritized to rice fields.
Seed Quality, Availability
Although hundreds of tilapia hatcheries with annual production
of billions of fry have satisfied the demand for seed in China,
some small-scale hatcheries fail to supply high-quality tilapia
seed. The irregular weather patterns have also given rise to seasonal
shortfalls in seed. The wet, cold conditions in early 2010,
for example, delayed the availability of seed in the Pearl River
Delta by one month.
Quality problems were observed in Hainan, where tilapia seed stocked in February suffered unusually high mortality. A similar phenomenon occurred in April in Guangdong. Poor seed availability persisted throughout the year in Guangdong, Hainan and Fujian, and the price of juveniles remained higher than normal.
Costs for labor, feed, chemicals and infrastructure have
greatly increased in recent years. Labor rates have escalated by at
least 50% over the last three years. Other key input prices have
also increased substantially (see Table 1). With the high costs
and low market prices, many farmers are losing their confidence
in tilapia farming.
Processors in China have taken a double hit in recent years. Just as the cost of labor has increased dramatically, currency exchange rates have also inflicted pressure. The value of Chinas yuan renminbi increased to the U.S. dollar by nearly 7% from 2009 to 2011.
Prices of Key Inputs for Tilapia Farming in China
|Year||Feed Price (yuan/mt)||Casual Labor Cost (yuan/day)||Pond Rent (yuan/mu)||Delivery Cost (yuan/mt)|