By MIKE PICCHIETTI

For U.S. tilapia producers, there is one big question regarding the live tilapia market in this country.   This important question is: Will history repeat itself as dramatically as it did in the 1980s when U.S. fillet producers lost their businesses to lower tech, lower cost producers from Central and South America? Once again there is a “north vs. south” competitive dynamic taking place in eastern U.S. live tilapia markets. Although many of the so-called southern producers (in Florida) may speak Spanish, their farms and the farmers are in the U.S.A. The U.S. live market is witnessing an explosion of outdoor, lower tech tilapia production taking place on new South Florida farms.

Within the last two years, at least 10 to 12 new farms have come on line in South Florida with an annual estimated production of 4 to 5 million pounds (lb.). This is “new” lbs. per year, and it is targeting northern markets. This market is estimated at 7 to 8 million lbs., principally in New York City and Toronto where the Asian consumer lives. This market and supply has been steady for at least the last 5 years. It has been supplied by 10 to 12 indoor farms up north, ranging from 250,000 lbs. to 3 million lbs. / year.  [...]