By MIKE PICCHIETTI

The fresh tilapia fillet market in North America has not grown in over 10 years; it is at year after year at around 1 million pounds per week. Price is not the only challenge holding back fresh fillet volume in North

America; I believe there are other factors at play. Globally, farmed tilapia is only 3% of farmed chicken production. A challenge for new Brazilian, Vietnamese and Mexican producers targeting the US tilapia fillet market. First you have to realize that other more established tilapia producers in China, Costa Rica, Indonesia, Honduras, Ecuador and Colombia who have a head start in the market must be considered. In the fresh fillet market the growth of new tilapia producers was only because another tilapia producer, for one reason or another, left the market. For example Ecuador, once the biggest producer left tilapia, to go after more profits in shrimp. This greatly helped emerging Honduran and Mexican fresh fillets. They simply replaced the Ecuadorian and some of the Costa Rican supply, however - no growth - the same gross amount of 1 million pounds per week remains.

The other challenge for tilapia fillet sales are low prices for Asian catfish and frozen tilapia from China, pushing down the overall tilapia prices for whole, frozen and fresh tilapia. Even though it’s frozen, Chinese tilapia fillets and whole fish still set a benchmark price for around $2/lb.,for fillets., less than$1.00/ lb. for whole, with non-Chinese (Indonesian, Thai, Mexican) frozen fillets selling closer to $3/lb. But non-Chinese frozen fillets compete in less than 10% of the frozen fillet market.

There is certainly downward price pressure from the Asian cat fish and Chinese frozen fillet volume impacting the fresh fillets. In the US, fresh fillets sell to the consumer in the grocery store at $7 to $9/lb. versus Chinese frozen in the supermarket at $3.99 /lb. to the consumer. [...]