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FAO issues alert over lethal virus affecting popular tilapia fish

Though not a human health risk, Tilapia Lake Virus has large potential impact on global food security and nutrition

26 May 2017, Rome–A highly contagious disease is spreading among farmed and wild tilapia, one of the world’s most important fish for human consumption.

The outbreak should be treated with concern and countries importing tilapias should take appropriate risk-management measures – intensifying diagnostics testing, enforcing health certificates, deploying quarantine measures and developing contingency plans – according to a Special Alert released today by FAO’s Global Information and Early Warnings System.

Tilapia Lake Virus (TiLV) has now been reported in five countries on three continents: Colombia, Ecuador, Egypt, Israel and Thailand.

While the pathogen poses no public health concern, it can decimate infected populations. In 2015, world tilapia production, from both aquaculture and capture, amounted to 6.4 million tonnes, with an estimated value of USD 9.8 billion, and worldwide trade was valued at USD1.8 billion. The fish is a mainstay of global food security and nutrition, GIEWS said.

Joyce Makaka tends her FAO-assisted fish farm in western Kenya.

Joyce Makaka tends her FAO-assisted fish farm in western Kenya.

Tilapia producing countries need to be vigilant, and should follow aquatic animal-health code protocols of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) when trading tilapia. They should initiate an active surveillance programme to determine the presence or absence of TiLV, the geographic extent of the infection and identify risk factors that may help contain it.

Countries are encouraged also to launch public information campaigns to advise aquaculturists – many of them smallholders – of TiLV’s clinical signs and the economic and social risks it poses and the need to flag large-scale mortalities to biosecurity authorities.

Currently, actively TiLV surveillance is being conducted in China, India, Indonesia and it is planned to start in the Philippines. In Israel, an epidemiological retrospective survey is expected to determine factors influencing low survival rates and overall mortalities including relative importance of TiLV. In addition, a private company is currently working on the development of live attenuated vaccine for TiLV.

It is not currently known whether the disease can be transmitted via frozen tilapia products, but “it is likely that TiLV may have a wider distribution than is known today and its threat to tilapia farming at the global level is significant,” GIEWS said in its alert.

FAO will continue to monitor TiLV, work with governments and development partners and search for resources that can be explored in order to assist FAO member countries to deal with TiLV, as requested and as necessary.

The disease

There are many knowledge gaps linked to TiLV.

More research is required to determine whether TiLV is carried by non-tilapine species and other organisms such as piscivorous birds and mammals, and whether it can be transmitted through frozen tilapia products.

The disease shows highly variable mortality, with outbreaks in Thailand triggering the deaths of up to 90 percent of stocks. Infected fish often show loss of appetite, slow movements, dermal lesions and ulcers, ocular abnormalities, and opacity of lens.As a reliable diagnostic test for TiLV is available, it should be applied to rule out TiLV as the causal agent of unexplained mortalities.

TiLV belongs to the Orthomyxoviridae family of viruses, which is also the same family to which the Infectious Salmon Anaemia virus belongs, which wrought great damage on the salmon farming industry.

In May 2017, The Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia-Pacific (NACA) released a TiLV Disease Advisory and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) released a Disease Card. The WorldFish Center also released a Factsheet: TiLV: what to know and do, this month.

The importance of tilapia

Tilapias are the second most important aquaculture species in volume termsproviding food, jobs and domestic and export earnings for millions of people, including many smallholders.

Their affordable price, omnivorous diet, tolerance to high-density farming methods and usually strong resistance to disease makes them an important protein source, especially in developing countries and for poorer consumers.

China, Indonesia and Egypt are the three leading aquaculture producers of tilapia, a fish deemed to have great potential for expansion in sub-Saharan Africa.

Contact

Christopher Emsden
FAO Media Relations (Rome)
(+39) 06 570 53291
christopher.emsden@fao.org

 

Adding Value to African Aquaculture Production

BioMar Group has an increasing presence in Africa and is now launching a complete high performing range for tilapia and African catfish for African markets.

Africa is a continent with huge demands for more food, produced in a responsible and sustainable way. “We believe that aquaculture is one of the answers to this demand”, said Ole Christensen, Vice President for BioMar’s EMEA division. “BioMar Group has ambitious targets and initiatives for shaping an efficient and sustainable global aquaculture in collaboration with the entire aquaculture value chain.”

In recent years, the growth of African catfish and tilapia farming has increased particularly in the African markets. For many years, BioMar has served the African markets from France by offering high performing starter and grower diets for these species. As farms become increasingly intensive, the need for a diet targeted for broodstock has grown. To meet this demand, BioMar France now expands its product range to cover all nutritional needs of these species at all stages of their life cycle by introducing broodstock feed type EFICO Genio 838F, available for all tilapia and African catfish farmers in Africa and other markets served by BioMar’s EMEA division.

As in Africa, tilapia is also a popular aquaculture species in Central America. Cross-utilising knowledge and expertise in aquafeed across borders and continents is one of BioMar’s important strengths, and it was central in developing BioMar’s feed range for tilapia. Global R&D at BioMar has in close collaboration with our unit in Costa Rica carried out research on this species and developed high value feed types, which have been fine-tuned by working in close collaboration with an intensive tilapia farm.

Tilapia in net (credit Biomar)

“The goal of broodstock feed EFICO Genio 838F is to increase reproduction capacity”, said Michel Autin, Technical Director of BioMar EMEA. “The vitamin mix and levels are fine-tuned to promote an increase in the number of females actively spawning.  Our newly developed broodstock feed has a formulation that includes the necessary protein and vitamin balances, which contributes to increased spawning frequency, hatchability, and survival of fry.“ The EFICO Genio 838F includes the probiotic Bactocell®* and immune modulating ingredients similar to BioMar’s EFICO Genio broodstock feeds for trout, sea bass and sea bream to improve survival and boost the immune system.

“These efforts have been of great value to the development of the feeds offered by BioMar for warm freshwater fish like tilapia and African catfish”, said Michel Autin. “And now we can, for the first time, provide a broodstock diet that is specialized for warm freshwater fish whose natural diet is largely plant based.”

African aquaculture production is expanding in various ways and into various species. BioMar’s presence in Africa steadily grows. The markets served by BioMar are not limited to tilapia and catfish. “We have for many years also supplied feed to a growing number of sea bass and sea bream farms based in Northern African countries. We aim to add value to African aquaculture production. We listen to and react based on the needs of our customers as we want to act as a locally responsive, agile, and specialized aquaculture feed provider, building our efforts on the four fundamental pillars: Innovation, Performance, Sustainability, and Cooperation,” Ole Christensen concluded.

* Bactocell® is the only probiotic approved by the European Commission for inclusion in fish feed.

For further information please contact:

Vice President, BioMar EMEA Division

Ole Christensen
Email: och@biomar.com

Technical Director, BioMar EMEA Division

Michel Autin
Email: michel.autin@biomar.fr

Major Tilapia Markets Continue to Weaken

International trade stays positive with promising African markets

The weak positions of the USA and EU, the major tilapia markets, continue into the first quarter of 2016. Nevertheless, international trade remained positive. Based on reporting by major markets and producers, total global tilapia exports are estimated to have increased by 18% during the first quarter of 2016, while imports are estimated to have grown by 15% compared with the same period in 2015. In addition to Asia and Latin America, which continue to produce and consume a growing amount of tilapia, African markets are increasingly taking a larger share of exports. Tilapia farming is also proving to play an important role in food security of countries in the Pacific, such as Fiji and Papua New Guinea.

China

Total exports of Chinese frozen tilapia experienced a year-on-year 3% decline in volume during the first quarter of 2016 mainly due to lower exports of frozen fillets (-13%). However, exports of breaded fillets and whole frozen tilapia were up by 9.8% and 2.4% respectively.

In terms of prices, average export prices of frozen tilapia in 2016 weakened further for all product groups. Export prices of frozen fillets were down 14.4% to USD 3.6 per kg, whole frozen by 6.5% to USD 2.04 per kg and breaded fillets by 11.8% to USD 3.86 per kg.

The USA remains the main market for Chinese frozen tilapia. In a new development however, Côte d’Ivoire overtook the USA as the largest Chinese market for whole frozen tilapia by importing 6 425 tonnes from China during the first quarter of 2016. This was an enormous 307% increase from the same period in 2015. Other African markets experiencing growth in Chinese whole frozen tilapia include Ghana, Kenya and Tanzania. Although average export prices to these African markets declined during the period under review, these markets paid higher prices (USD 2.20-2.60 per kg) compared with the US market (USD 1.79 per kg) due to strong demand, higher import tariffs and more nascent trade ties. It is important to note that imported tilapia represents a challenge for the development of domestic tilapia aquaculture in Africa.

For frozen fillets, which make up 40% of Chinese tilapia trade, exports declined to most markets including the USA. Notably, there was positive growth in exports to Iran, which indicates its potential as a growing market for tilapia fillets. Chinese exports of frozen fillets to Iran reached 3 600 tonnes during the 2016 first quarter, 59% up from the same period in 2015. The market has turned to tilapia as a cheaper source of frozen fish fillets compared with the popular New Zealand hoki.

In contrast, Chinese exports of frozen breaded tilapia experienced positive growth (+9.8%) into the main markets of Mexico, Côte d’Ivoire, Congo and Kenya.

USA

Total tilapia imports into the US market during the first quarter of 2016 were 14% lower in terms of volume and 24% less in value terms compared with the same period of last year. 61 400 tonnes were shipped into the country valued at USD 247 976 million.

During the first three months of the year, China as usual remained the main tilapia supplier to the USA with 46 700 tonnes imported worth USD 166 838 million. These figures demonstrate a year-on-year decrease of 17% in volume and 29% value. The product mainly imported was frozen.
Other important suppliers, such as Honduras, Indonesia, Costa Rica and Mexico also registered drops in shipments to the USA, while Colombian exports of tilapia during January-March 2016 rose by 11.6% volume wise and 10% value wise.

Colombia’s interest in the US market was demonstrated during the Seafood Expo North America 2016 in Boston where 14 Colombian companies participated. The potential growth of Colombia as a tilapia supplier to the US market is largely driven by the Free Trade Agreement signed three years ago. Colombia is also targeting other potential markets such as Chile, Spain, France, the UK, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Poland.
For now, Honduras maintains its leadership in the Latin American region as the largest exporter of fresh tilapia to the USA, despite the drop in production volume as a result of the drought caused by El Niño.

EU

The weak demand in the EU persisted during the first quarter of 2016 as the EU imported 15.9% less total frozen tilapia compared with the same period in 2015. In total, the EU imported 6 600 tonnes of tilapia during this period. Both categories of frozen fillets and whole frozen tilapia, which take up almost equal shares, experienced declines of 7.3% and 26.4% respectively. Within the EU, Spain imports the largest volume of tilapia, mostly fillets although like elsewhere in the EU, imports declined during the review period.

Asia remains the main supply source to the EU, with the top five suppliers being China, Viet Nam, Indonesia, Thailand and Taiwan Province of China making up nearly 99% of the total. Frozen tilapia fillets from Taiwan Province of China fetch premium prices due to high quality. In the whole frozen category, imports increased from Bangladesh, with this tilapia primarily consumed by the ethnic population of Bangladeshi residents in the EU.

Taiwan Province of China
In the first quarter of 2016, total exports of frozen tilapia from Taiwan Province of China experienced 18% growth compared with the same period in 2015 to total 6 000 tonnes. The whole frozen tilapia makes up 90% of total frozen tilapia exports, with the first quarter showing 20% growth in this product category for exports to the major markets, namely the USA and the Middle East. Together, the US and Middle Eastern markets took an 88% market share of whole frozen tilapia exports from Taiwan Province of China. In contrast, frozen tilapia fillet exports experienced a marginal decline (-0.48%). Main markets for this product category are the USA, Republic of Korea, Canada and Japan.

Outlook
Despite weakening in the major markets, the outlook seems promising amidst production problems in China as demand continues to be strong in Asia, Africa and Latin America. The species is also growing in importance for food security in the Pacific and the some parts of West Asia.

Source: FAO

The report analyses the tilapia market situation over the period January-June 2016 

CTSA 2016 Priority – Tilapia Farming Development

Tilapia has been identified as one of the most desired species for aquaculture farming throughout the Center for Tropical and Subtropical Aquaculture (CTSA) region. Although most farming technology is available, the development and expansion of tilapia farming still faces regional challenges. One of the highest priorities in recent years has been stock improvement, and much work has been done in that area. CTSA encourages studies to continue improving the productivity of tilapia farming, and has identified the following top priorities for FY2016:

1) Develop protocols to ensure the quality of the final products.

2) Improve regional access to disease-free tilapia with high-quality genetic traits.

Center for Tropical and Subtropical Aquaculture
41-202 Kalaniana’ole Highway
Waimanalo, HI 96795

Additional Resources:

First Latin American Company To Offer Four-Star BAP Tilapia

Paraiso Springs Aquaculture Guatemala is Latin America’s first company qualified to offer four-star Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) tilapia, the Global Aquaculture Alliance announced in early March.

The company became eligible to offer four-star BAP tilapia with the BAP certification of its hatchery. Its new processing plant and farm — located in Caserio Los Angeles, San Luis Peten, Guatemala — are already BAP certified, as are the feed mills from which it sources feed, Areca Feed Mill in Guatemala and Cargill de Honduras.

Four-star BAP status denotes that the product originates from a BAP-certified processing plant, farm, hatchery and feed mill. It’s the highest achievement in the BAP program.

“We are very proud of the hard work our crew put forth to obtain BAP four-star certification. It certainly is an accomplishment for a small family-run operation like Paraiso Springs. This is a big part of our quality commitment to our clients and community,” said Alejandro Palomo, president of Paraiso Springs Aquaculture Guatemala.

Currently, worldwide, there are 74 BAP-certified tilapia processing plants and 68 BAP-certified tilapia farms, representing more than 175,000 metric tons annually.

About BAP
A division of the Global Aquaculture Alliance, Best Aquaculture Practices is an international certification program based on achievable, science-based and continuously improved performance standards for the entire aquaculture supply chain — farms, hatcheries, processing plants and feed mills — that assure healthful foods produced through environmentally and socially responsible means. BAP certification is based on independent audits that evaluate compliance with the BAP standards developed by the Global Aquaculture Alliance.