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Tilapia faces hurdles to UK success
February 08, 2013, 08:45 AM
As a product, tilapia ticks many boxes. It is available in large volumes; it’s mild in flavor and easy to cook; it freezes and defrosts well; and it’s very affordable. From a production perspective, the fish is sustainably farmed using little, if any, marine feeds; and it’s a very fast growing and resilient species.

While these characteristics have undoubtedly contributed to tilapia earning the No. 4 spot on the National Fisheries Institute’s (NFI) top 10 list of the most consumed seafood species in the United States, across the pond the same fish has had nowhere near the same measure of success. The figures don’t lie — the EU imported 20,700 metric tons (MT) of tilapia products in 2011, while U.S. imports topped 192,000 MT and the gap is forecast to be much wider when the 2012 statistics are published.

There are two weighty reasons why tilapia hasn’t triumphed in Europe thus far. Firstly, it’s significantly more expensive than pangasius; and secondly, a lot of the tilapia that has found its way into the market in the last 10 years has been of poor quality, which has tarnished the fish’s reputation.

Most of the product was from China and 90 percent of that fish is horrible. It looks horrible and it tastes horrible. That has done a lot of damage,” says Rudi Lamprecht, founder of tilapia producer Regal Springs, which operates farms in Central and South America.

“Also, the European market is about price, price and price. Pangasius has been extremely successful due to its price. And the nice pangasius is paper-white and very attractive looking.”

Swiss entrepreneur Lamprecht started Regal Springs in 1988 and today the group produces around 100,000 MT of live-weight equivalent tilapia per year. It exports about 1,200 MT of frozen and 750 MT of fresh tilapia to the United States each month, but ships just 250 MT to Europe.

Of the northern European countries, which are the most receptive markets, resistance to tilapia is at its strongest in the United Kingdom, which imported less than 675 MT of fresh and frozen tilapia products in 2011. Exporters can at least point to an increasing export trend as the market imported just 532 MT in the previous 12 months.

This time it’s the huge increases in next year’s total allowable catches of cod by Iceland and Norway/Russia, which have been set at 196,000 MT and 1 million MT, respectively. Cod prices are expected to tumble next year as a result, making the traditional U.K. favorite even more attractively positioned.

“It could be a problem. The average British consumer knows about cod, haddock and salmon. No one has really heard of tilapia,” says Richard Clarke, farm manager, The Fish Co.

Source: (SeafoodSource)
Ngoc Ha
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Specialist on Tuna market
Ms Van Ha
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