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Tilapia Demand Firm, Prices Remain Relatively Low

Lucy Towers
13 January 2017, at 12:00am

GLOBAL - During the first half of 2016, approximately 170 000 tonnes of tilapia (whole, fillets and breaded) entered the international market. A recent supply shortage in China this summer, could lead to prices firming in late 2016/early 2017, reports FAO, GLOBEFISH.

Asia

Asia continues to easily be the largest supply source for tilapia. During the review period, approximately 150 000 tonnes of tilapia was exported from the region, which was comprised of 52 percent frozen fillets and 48 percent whole frozen tilapia. The top five producers in the region are China, Indonesia, Taiwan Province of China, Thailand and Malaysia.

Taiwan Province of China was the first country to pioneer tilapia production over ten years ago. For the first half of 2016, Taiwan Province of China's tilapia exports increased by 14 percent during the first six months of 2016 compared with the same period last year. About 62 percent of its exports consisted of frozen tilapia (mostly whole products) to the USA. The Middle East markets, namely Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, have emerged as potential lucrative markets. Sashimi quality frozen fillets are exported to Japan fetching a high average price of US$11.60 per kg although the domestic market absorbs most of the production.

In India, the Middle East is an increasingly important market. Currently, about 90 percent of Indian tilapia exports head to these markets, with the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Oman as the leading importers.

China

Exports of Chinese tilapia during the first half of 2016 remained overall more or less steady from the same period in 2015, though there were shifts in product categories. Exports of frozen fillets and whole frozen tilapia, which take up the largest share of trade, continued to decline, for January–June by 2.8 percent and 3.4 percent respectively compared with the same time period last year. Breaded tilapia fillet exports showed positive growth with Mexico, African markets and Israel absorbing more.

Exports were significantly higher to Côte d'Ivoire, the third largest market after the USA and Mexico.

Chinese half-year prices in 2016 registered declines compared with the same time period in 2015. Average export prices for the review period fell by 12.3 percent for frozen fillets, 8.3 percent for breaded tilapia and 5 percent for whole frozen tilapia. However, with a supply shortage in China this summer due to a cold winter that reduced fingerling volumes, average export prices were pushed back up.

The USA retained its position as the single largest market for Chinese tilapia, though the market imported less when comparing the first half of 2016 with the same time period in 2015. African markets accounted for the second largest market for Chinese tilapia, absorbing nearly 44 700 tonnes. The Latin American markets took a 12.4 percent share of Chinese tilapia exports with Mexico consuming the largest share. Exports continue to increase to Iran which absorbed 8 400 tonnes of tilapia during this period, a significant 64 percent more compared with the same period last year.

USA

Total tilapia imports into the US market during the first half of 2016 fell year-on-year by 10 percent in volume and 21 percent in value compared with the same period last year. Imports totaled about 100 500 tonnes worth US$404 600 million. Although there were increases in imports from Taiwan Province of China and Indonesia, this did not make up the difference.

Average import prices of frozen fillets during the period declined by 11 percent compared with a year ago. Demand for tilapia will likely pick up in the coming months when procurement for the holiday season and New Year begins.

Latin America

Honduras remains the largest Central American supplier, though its export value to the USA fell by 19 percent during the first half of the year.

The tilapia aquaculture industry is significantly growing in Brazil, where it is currently the second largest aquaculture industry. Its main producing state is Parana, which produces more than 25 percent of total domestic production. The sector is growing largely as a result of the efficient feed conversion ratio, which according to EMBRAPA, a Brazilian agricultural research entity, and CNA (the Confederation of Agriculture and Livestock of Brazil), is currently at 1:4. Tilapia demand continues to be strong in the domestic market and with the Brazilian real weakening against the US dollar there may be some new interest in exports. Some analysts predict that Brazil will become a leading producer of tilapia, in the long term competing with China in the frozen fillet market. According to a recent report by Rabobank, Brazil could grow its tilapia production by 10 percent per year, exceeding over 490 000 tonnes by 2020.

In Colombia, increased tilapia exports have led to tilapia supply shortages on the domestic market. Large producers generally prefer to export due to higher profitability, particularly with the devaluation of the Colombian peso against the US dollar. In turn, farmers producing red tilapia (the product preferred in the domestic market) have shifted production to black tilapia, which is less costly to grow, for export. As could be expected, the deficit in the red tilapia domestic supply has led to a price increase over the last year.

EU

For the first half of 2016, the market block imported 1 120 tonnes less tilapia from outside the EU, primarily due to lower supplies from China. In total, the EU-27 imported 12 300 tonnes of tilapia, 56 percent frozen fillets and 44 percent whole frozen. Despite lower imports from China, there were increases in supplies of premium-quality frozen fillets from Indonesia, Taiwan Province of China and Thailand. Import prices for these premium fillets during this period ranged from US$6.20 to 13.0 per kg.

The report analyses the tilapia market situation over the period January-October 2016