Farmers harvest tilapia in Dong Mai ward, Quang Yen town of Quang Ninh province (Photo: VNA)

HCM City (VNA) – Tilapia fish exports this year are forecast to surge by 32 percent against 2015 to 45 million USD, according to the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP).

The processing and export of the freshwater fish species will continue thriving in the next few years, VASEP said, noting the upward trend over the past number of years.

Vietnam shipped tilapia to 68 markets in 2015, compared to only eight in 2005, with the US, Colombia and the EU the biggest importers.

About 23 percent of the country’s tilapia shipments are destined for the US at present, making Vietnam the third biggest tilapia exporter there (following China and China’s Taiwan) with a market share of 10 percent.

In the first half of 2016, more than 2 million USD worth of tilapia was exported to the US, about three times the figure during the same period last year. Meanwhile, tilapia currently ranks fourth among the 10 favourite aquatic products in the US.

In Colombia, Vietnam is the top tilapia supplier when it has gained a 53 – 63 percent market share.

The EU, Africa and South America are also potential destinations for Vietnam’s tilapia, VASEP said, noting total overseas shipments of this species between January and June increased by almost eightfold from a year earlier to nearly 14 million USD.

Although tilapia hasn’t made up a considerable proportion in Vietnam’s aquatic exports, it boasts huge potential for both farming and sale.

Nguyen Ba Son from the Directorate of Fisheries said by the end of last year, tilapia had been raised on more than 25,700ha of water surface nationwide, mostly in northern lowland and southwestern provinces, with a total output of 187,000 tonnes.

The fish is becoming a key product of the fisheries sector as domestic consumption and export demand for this species is large. Meanwhile, there are only a few diseases associated with tilapia, which is also not choosy about food and inexpensive to produce. The river and lake systems – tilapia’s habitat – covers right across Vietnam, he said.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development targets the production of 300,000 tonnes of tilapia a year by 2020, about 50 – 60 percent of which will qualify for export. It has also issued guidance on applying VietGAP standards in tilapia farming to ensure quality.

Vietnam is forming four concentrated tilapia breeding regions located in Quang Ninh province in the north, Dak Lak in the Central Highlands, and Kien Giang and Soc Trang in the Mekong Delta.-VNA