Globefish reports that world tilapia production has been booming during the last decade, with output doubling from 830,000 tonnes in 1990 to 3.5 million tonnes in 2008. Aquaculture has been the main reason for the increase, with China being by far the main tilapia-producing country, with production of 1.1 million tonnes in 2008. African production, catering for domestic markets, also increased, with the 430,000 tonnes of farmed tilapia produced in 2008 being over twice that of 2000.
Africa is one of the most important consumers of tilapia with 950,000 tonnes per year, while the EU accounts for only about 56,000 tonnes, although it is likely that demand will expand. Increased production of value-added tilapia products is likely in developing countries, including of (tilapia) fish fingers. There will be more foreign investment in tilapia farms in developing countries, targeting mainly foreign markets. Prices are likely to recover from present low levels, in view of overall increasing food prices and due to higher feed and transport costs.
Tilapia is a fish species that is very easy to farm, both in extensive small-scale and intensive industrial operations. Although African production has increased in the last few years (mainly in Egypt), it still imports more than half of the tilapia it consumes. Developing tilapia production in Africa, both for local food security and for value-added export products, is an opportunity not to be missed by ACP countries.