India must look at exporting Tilapia fish to United States

With Chinese exports to the US dwindling, India can step in to fill the gap

Written by: V Sajeev Kumar  / The Hindu Business Line

India could emerge as the next big exporter of Tilapia fish to the US because of the imposition of 30 percent tariff on the Chinese species by the Trump administration.

The US imports around six lakh tonnes of Tilapia a year and the tariff on frozen Tilapia fillets from China has forced the US to look to other markets, including India and Latin America, to meet the demand, said Kevin M Fitzsimmons, Director, International Initiatives, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences of the University of Arizona.

Lagging production

India, he said, could fill this vacuum if there is an increase in production, which currently stands at 20,000 tonnes. The global aquaculture Tilapia sales stand at $13 billion in 2019, which is expected to reach $ 25 billion in 2029.

China continues to be the world’s largest producer of Tilapia with 1.6 million tonnes. But, of late, the production there has been stagnant due to rising input costs, he told BusinessLine¬†on the sidelines of Aqua Aquaria 2019 organized by Marine Products Export Development Authority in Hyderabad.

Tilapia, with its rich nutritional contents such as Omega 3 fatty acids and high protein, takes the fourth place in seafood imports into the US after shrimp, salmon, and pollock.

With a relatively stable price in the global market due to consistent supplies, Tilapia fetches $6.5 per kg, Fitzsimmons, who is heading the Myanmar Sustainable Aquaculture Programme (Mysap), said. However, he pointed out that India is lagging behind in Tilapia production and has the potential to double the figure to 40,000 tonnes in the next 2 to 3 years, especially with its Genetically Improved Farmed Tilapia (GIFT) varieties.

Cage farms, reservoirs, ponds, irrigation canals all have the potential to grow this fish along with other species such as shrimps, carps, scampi, etc. The existing aquaculture industry can also play a major role in the rapid development of Tilapia farming.

Before catering to the export markets, he said, the species should be popularised in the domestic market first through the support of government agencies, seafood wholesalers, fishermen communities, etc.

The world Tilapia production stands at six million tonnes and of this, China’s contribution is 1.6 million tonnes, followed by Indonesia (1 million tonnes), Egypt (9,50,000 tonnes) and Bangladesh (3,50,000 tonnes).

Bangladesh has integrated Tilapia farming with other species in big farms, group farming, cages and this can be practiced in India to popularise the fish, he said, adding that Pakistan has also started growing it in Multan lake, eyeing the growing West Asian markets.


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