Aquaculture Magazine

April/ May 2017

Tilapia and Pangasius - Updates from Urner Barry

Total imports in 2016 ended only 2 percent higher compared to the previous year, and reaching the highest level since 2009.

By: Paul B. Brown Jr.*

Tilapia: Pangasius imports surpassed those of frozen tilapia fillets in 2016. This is quite a development as pangasius could go into a major change in the upcoming months…

Pangasius and Channel Catfish: Pangasius imports reached a yearly record high totaling 288.4 million lbs. Channel catfish imports managed to add 1.8 million pounds in December 2016 resulting in flat year-over-year imports in 2016. 

Imported Channel Catfish:  Imports of frozen channel catfish fillets increased as seasonally expected reaching 1.6 million pounds. Shipments in December entered the U.S. with a declared value of $3.09 per pound, down $0.7 from the previous month. The wholesale market adjusted slightly lower in December but it is steady at newly listed levels. 

Pangasius: December imports decreased significantly from the previous month but ended the year at record high of 288.4 million pounds. Imports of pangasius were larger than those of tilapia frozen fillets in 2016.

After the last duties’ review, many traders have reported warning signs from producers that costs are likely to move up. One factor has been China emerging as a large buyer of this species. In the U.S., many importers have tried to raise existing offerings. Although the market is mixed now, many see the undertone to be firm. We will see. 

Tilapia Whole Fish: Frozen whole fish imports decreased 4.6 percent from the previous month falling below the last 2 years and the 3-year average. Total imports in 2016 ended only 2 percent higher compared to the previous year, and reaching the highest level since 2009. 

Tilapia Fresh Fillets: When removing imports from China (mainland) entirely—but leaving imports from Taiwan—imports in December increased nearly 9 percent from the previous month, bringing total imports for 2016 4 percent below 2015. Again, although the monthly behavior is seasonally normal, imports have been decreasing consistently over the last 2 years. Imports from Ecuador ended 27.6 percent below the prior year’s figures while those from Costa Rica were only 1.4 percent lower. Imports from Brazil increased 538 percent, from 312 thousand pounds in 2015, to nearly 2 million in 2016. Shipments from Colombia were flat compared to 2015 at about 11.8 million pounds.

From a replacement cost basis and the adjustments made to weight the import $/lb. including only the top 5 suppliers, we found that December’s figure at $2.73 increased 3 cents from the previous month, which was the lowest since April 2006 (yes, over 10 years). The market in the U.S. continues under downward pricing pressure after the market adjusted lower in November, December, and again in February.

Tilapia Frozen Fillets: December imports increased seasonally in December but fell to its lowest level for that month since 2007 (yes, again 10 years!). Total imports ended the year nearly 19 percent below those recorded in 2015. This is a huge decrease since it represents a fall of over 64 million pounds year-over-year. Since prices overall remained steady to weak throughout the year, the only simple conclusion is that demand has contracted quite significantly in the last year. 

Between pangasius and tilapia frozen fillets the U.S. imported 571 million pounds in 2016, of which 49 percent are tilapia and 51 are pangasius; last year tilapia accounted for nearly 60 percent and pangasius 40 percent.

Domestic Catfish: Prices of domestic catfish were steady. A mild winter helped production of catfish and inventories are beginning to rebuild. Frozen nuggets were the exception and trended downward; supplies were fully adequate for a moderate demand.

*President of Urner Barry

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