Export of the fish has seen strong growth in the past decade, rising to more than $32 million last year from $1.95 million in 2004, it said.
It has been exported in the form of frozen whole fish, skin-on fillet and skinless fillets to more than 60 countries, with the US, Spain, Colombia, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Mexico, the UK, the Czech Republic, and Italy being the top importers, VNS reports.
The country had 16,000ha of tilapia farms last year, which produced 125,000 tonnes. They are expected to grow to 21,000ha and 150,000 tonnes this year.
Pham Anh Tuan, deputy director of the directorate, said 70 per cent of tilapia is bred in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta and the remaining in the north.
Under the tilapia breeding master plan for the period until 2020, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development encourages institutes, universities and enterprises to import fry for research and breeding more fry.
It also wants localities to establish links between tilapia farmers, processors and exporters.
In addition, provincial agriculture departments are required to strengthen quality management and regularly check breeding activities to ensure farming follows zoning plans and does not cause pollution or obstruct waterway transport.
Ngo The Anh, an expert at the directorate's Department of Aquaculture, said there is high demand for tilapia in the global market.
Entering the global market after China, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines, Vietnamese exporters have faced difficulties in finding export markets, especially large markets, he said.
There are also problems related to fry quality, high production costs and low disease resistance, he said.
The directorate has suggested that companies, apart from investing to develop high-grade fries, should also focus on building brands for Vietnamese tilapia and developing unique products to compete with experienced global rivals.