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Current Trends in Tilapia Farming Worldwide

In the second International Technical and Trade Conference and Exposition on Tilapia in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, we recently participated in, the latest trends in tilapia farming worldwide were taken up.

Global production- of farmed tilapia in 2005 was 2.5 million metric tons and over two-thirds of this volume was produced in Asia. Among the top five producers are China, Bangladesh, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand. By 2010, world tilapia production is expected to be 3.5-4 million metric tons.

According to the Tilapia Market Report of INFOFISH, a service-oriented intergovernmental organization that organized TILAPIA 2007 in Kuala Lumpur, the biggest export market for tilapia is the United States. The US imported 158,300 metric tons of tilapia (whole frozen, frozen fillets, and fresh fillets) in 2006. Ecuador is the top exporting country for fresh fillets while China is the top exporter of whole frozen tilapia and frozen fillets. The value of tilapia as an aquaculture commodity worldwide is about US$500 million.

The most enlightening current trends we noted from the conference that was attended by 370 participants from 43 countries are organic tilapia farming, value addition of tilapia byproducts, and the use of algal meal for feeding tilapia.

Dr. Frank Fu-Sung Chiang of the National Taiwan Ocean University reported on the production of organic tilapia in Myanmar (formerly Burma), which has exported US$50 million worth of frozen whole organic tilapia to Europe. Organically fed Nile tilapia is stocked at a relatively low density of 3 per sq. m. in 2.5-hectare ponds which are organically fertilized (no chemicals). After about eight months of culture, the fish attain a harvest size of 0.6 kilo each with a feed conversion of 1.5. Yields of 8-10 tons per hectare are obtained with cost of production of US$0.55/kg.

Aside from tilapia fillets, other value-added products from tilapia such as breaded tilapia, tilapia fingers and even tilapia skin crackles are now in the market. In Taiwan, the collagen in tilapia scales is extracted and processed into a high-value cosmetic product. In Honduras, Regal Springs Tilapia has produced 300,000 gallons of biofuel from the wastes in its tilapia processing plant. In China, HQ Sustainable Maritime plans to produce high-quality protein and omega 3-rich fish oil from processed tilapia offal for the nutraceutical market in China and other countries.

Dr. Kasturi Samantaray of the Orissa University of Agriculture and Technology in India talked on the potential use of algal meal produced from the bluegreen alga (Anabaena cylindricao for tilapia feeds. She found that feeding Mozambique tilapia fingerlings with the meal significantly enhanced their growth compared with that of the control diet containing soybean meal as the plant protein source.

From Malaysia, Yong Kim Thai of the PKPS Farm Mart Sdn Bhd, reported on the intensive culture of red tilapia for the “live fish” market. In its 52-hectare Tilapia Merah Farm staffed with 20 workers, it produces the Selangor Cherifish (the brand name of its product) in cages placed in former tin-mining pools and irrigation canals, and in concrete tanks. It applies good broodstock management, production of quality fry, feeding, water quality control, and postharvest handling practices. Ten percent of its produce goes to the local market, while 90 percent is exported to Singapore where the fish averaging 0.5 kilo each is transported in specially designed vehicles for the transport of “live fish” and sold at RM 6.90/kg.