Global Market Analysis for Aquaculture Products: Asia Poised for Significant Growth

Global Production and Trade

Aligned with the positive trend during the first nine months of 2016 with major markets showing recovery, the positive trend persisted throughout the year. FAO estimates total world export of fishery products in 2016. At US$ 140 billion or an increase of 4.48% from the previous year. It is worthy to note here though during 2016 the US dollar had strengthened significantly against major currencies. Imports of fish and fishery products into major markets namely the US, Japan, China, South Korea, Hong Kong and Thailand compared with 2015. In the EU, France, the UK and Portugal also showed increased imports. Similarly exports in 2016 were positive in China (2.56%), Norway (20.03%), Thailand(3.97%), Canada (+4.96%) and Chile(+4.65%). Exports however continued downward for the US by 3.29%.

Nevertheless demand for seafood continues to grow worldwide, In 2015, global food fish production grew by 2.41% to reach new highs of close to 170 million MT. Aquaculture production continues  to be main contributor to global production growth increasing at an average 5% growth annually. As seen from the cart the growth line of production form aquaculture is fast closing up with that of capture production. Steady growth in production of carps, tilapia, shrimp, salmon and pangasius have been the main driver in pushing global aquaculture output  to new highs touching 77.64 million MT; 62% more than 2006. While carps form a main source of food security in the producing countries, the growth in the other main species are being driven by the growing demand worldwide with the two species groups namely shrimp and freshwater finfish gaining much prominence in the domestic and foreign markets.

Winds of Change in Seafood Trade

Approximately 89% of global aquaculture supply comes from Asia; no doubt 7 out of the top ten aquaculture producers are form Asia. Contrary to being traditionally a fish supplier t developed markets, imports are expanding in developing Asia;   more and more are being absorbed for domestic demand. Over the past decade the direction of seafood trade has followed new winds subsequent to the slowing down of the major markets in the US, Japan and EU. As evident from the trade information, developing markets continue to demand growth with Asia becoming a hub of emerging markets.

Southeast Asia and the Far East are perceived to be growing market areas for seafood. Demand is stronger in this region in comparison to the Western hemisphere. In recent years, Asia is increasingly importing high value seafood. The robust economic growth, rising disposable income, changing consumers lifestyle along with the strong preference for seafood are the key drivers to this transformation in Asia’s seafood market. Demand is also  rising in many medium and small scale import markets such as in India which is traditionally not considered a fish eating nation.

Within ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations), regional trade of aquaculture has expanded substantially largely supported by the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement(AFTA) particularly for species like vannamei shrimp, pangasius catfish and tilapia.

The trend is similar in the SAARC (South Asian Association of Region, where the members are Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Maldives, Nepal and Bhutan. To meet the growing domestic demand, regular imports of freshwater fish take place into Bangladesh form India and Myanmar which is as high 45000 MT annually. Domestic demand for freshwater prawn is so strong n India and Bangladesh that quite often the export industries are unable to compete with high prices in their domestic markets.


Demand for shrimp has been growing over the years both in the domestic and international markets. Farmed shrimp remains one of the popular high value species, dominated by primarily vannamei supplies from Asia. Global shrimp production form aquaculture crossed 501 million MT in 2015 with 3.9% growth form 2014. The global aquaculture supply which used to be led by black tiger shrimp has been dominated by white shrimp since 2003 and which now accounts for 75% share of global aquaculture supplies.

Since 2014, India has emerged as the number one exporter of shrimp in the world overtaking Thailand who was the leading world’s leading exporter close to 250000 MT of shrimp to its top major markets namely South Korea, the EU, Japan and USA.

The US remains the leading importer of shrimp with a record of 05 064 MT in 2016. Japan is the second largest single market for shrimp. Although imports increased by 4.5% in 2016, imports are general declining form the 300000 MT mark since the early 90s. Within the EU, Spain, France, Denmark and the UK experienced positive growths in 2016 with a huge portion of supplies coming from extra EU Countries.

A side from Japan and China, the largest import market for shrimp in Asia is South Korea followed by hong Kong and Taiwan where Vietnam and China are leading suppliers. Vietnam has emerged as an important market for Asian and Latin American shrimp exporters. It is estimated based on supplying countries, Vietnam imported close to 300000 MT of shrimp in 2016 from Ecuador, India, Thailand and Argentina for re-processing. This figure is an increase of 50% from 2015.

In general consumption of shrimp has increased significantly in Asia. The introduction of vannamei in many producing countries has increased its availability at affordable prices throughout the region. Shrimp is widely sold as fresh/chilled while in recent years there has been increased imports of frozen peeled shrimp into most counties in ASIA. Live shrimp particularly black tiger and freshwater prawn are available in supermarkets and seafood restaurants where prices are usually double than fresh/chilled products.

Meanwhile, the Macrobrachiu rosenbergii, also known as Giant River Prawn is probably the only shrimp species that does not have competitors per se, yet it remains untapped to some extent. True to its name, than freshwater water prawn has giant claws and a huge head which takes up almost 50% of its body size. Yet, the giant freshwater prawn popularly known as “udang galah” in Malaysia has a sizeable demand in Asia and in other international markets. Global production is estimated to be around 280000 MT with China, Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, Thailand and Mynamar as the major producers. Actual harvest is probably more than this as the species is not reported separately in many producing countries in Asia.

Besides the major markets in the US and Europe where demand has waned in general, there is growing demand for this product from the Caribbean and Middle East countries. Most of the freshwater prawn are marketed headless with sizes like U/5, U/12,13/20,21/25,26/30 pcs/ibs. Most of the freshwater prawns are channeled to high-class restaurants as headless product (Tails) while the Asian restaurants require the head-on type. Easy-peel prawns are also popular with more value additions like barbequed style and marinated in herbs, channeled to Europe and the USA.

Besides being a major producing area, Asia also consumes a significant amount of freshwater prawn. The species is marketed mainly as live or fresh product in the Asia Far East. Live shrimp is placed on the high-end catering trade. Seafood restaurants are the main users while those that are smaller and lower. Industry sources in Bangladesh report that the local market for freshwater prawn has further strengthened with the availability increasing at the retail whole prices up to US$20/Kg.


Salmon is among the most popular cold water farmed species for which demand is increasing quite steadily. The growing demand for salmon has also been supported y the rise in farmed salmon output. However, global production form farmed sources is reported to have declined in 2016 which pushed prices up substantially due to the strong demand. According to the Norwegian Seafood Council global exports of Atlantic salmon in 2016 experience higher growth in value than volume. The only region experienced growth was Asia with 5% with as the largest supplier to the region. While the demand waned in Europe, there was not much growth in the US.

Today, most of the supermarkets in Asian metropolises sell a wide range of high value farmed fishery products such as Atlantic salmon, cod, Pollack, abalone, mussel’s oysters etc. However, the most popular would be salmon. When it comes to Asia, in large the attractive color of salmon is among its key pull factor.

Salmon is sold widely as fresh/chilled fillet or fresh thawed product and as sashmi and sushi in super markets. This is also region where all parts of fish are consumed including salmon. Salmon heads, belly and bones are widely available in supermarkets and wet markets. In Singapore, salmon is the most popular fish and preferred by consumers. Salmon widely available at the levels of retail form wholesale markets, wet markets, supermarkets/hypermarkets and the catering. According to a survey carries out by the Norwegian Seafood Council, 50% of the salmon consumed in Singapore is through Japanese restaurants.


Tilapia is possibly one of the few fish species which has a vital role in enhancing food security in disadvantaged areas of the world, while at the same time, being versatile enough to be packaged for sale as premium products.

FAO reports that global tilapia production is expected to almost double form 4.3 million tons to 7.3 million tons a year between 2010 and 2030 being likely to become one of the species contributing to the fastest growth in global aquaculture aside from carp and catfish. Asia remains the main drive to this growth with China in the lead. Increased production of farmed tilapia in the major producing countries namely China, Egypt, Indonesia, the Philippines, Brazil, Thailand and Bangladesh contributed to the national food security programme and supported the rising domestic demand.

Despite production problems in 2016, total exports of tilapia form China increased to 393 182 MT albeit marginally by 0.46% form 2015. Exports of frozen fillet however declined during this period by 4.45% while the shares of whole frozen tilapia and breaded tilapia have been increasing. In the latter two categories, the African markets were the main destinations. Approximately 64% of whole frozen tilapia entered African markets in 2016 and 17% of breaded tilapia. The US and Mexico are the major markets although exports declined to the US. Meanwhile, Iran has emerged as the third largest market for Chinese frozen fillet with 53% more imports in 2016 to reach 16358 tonnes.

The markets in Asia and Latin America continue to absorb most of its production as tilapia remains popular as an affordable source of protein. Next to the US, the single largest importer of tilapias, African markets imported an average 83000 tonnes of whole frozen and breaded tilapia in 2016. Throughout Asia, tilapia is consumed mostly as whole and traded mostly live or fresh/chilled with some frozen products. Most countries in the region are producers of tilapia with production largely being are producers of tilapia with production largely being channeled to the domestic markets. In Singapore for example, live and fresh tilapia imports takes place from Malaysia and Thailand. At the wet market in Singapore, fresh/ chilled tilapia is sold at US$ 4.80/Kg while frozen izumidai quality frozen fillet from Taiwan was priced at US$ 3.20/Kg at the end of February 2017. Live black and red tilapas in supermarkets were priced at US$ 4.20/Kg. In most of Asia, tilapia is also widely available other forms, namely fillet and steaks. Bones and heads are also popularly consumed.

Asia will remain the main driver in its continued growth and popularity. With the increasing trends associated with the culture and consumer demand for tilapia clearly, tilapia and its product forms will go a long way towards fulfilling food security needs throughout the globe. While African markets are clearly poised for more growth, in Asia and Latin America, tilapia continues to be a popular choice of an affordable choice of protein source.

The EU market in general has not been attractive over the past five years with declining import on the whole. However, the demand is firm for premium tilapia is seen in higher imports of frozen tilapia fillet from Indonesia, Thailand and Taiwan. Tilapia from these sources is premium quality products which command higher prices. Average import prices of frozen tilapia fillet in 2016 were US$6.20/Kg and US$ 13.30/kg respectively.


Global production of pangasius has been steady about 1.6 million MT since 2012 with Vietnam as the leading supplier taking a 72% share. Other producers who upped their production were Indonesia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Malaysia and Myanmar.

The US which is the single largest market for pangasius imported a little over 100000 MT of frozen pangasius fillet in 2016.  Latin America and Asia together accounted for nearly 50% of global pangasius imports (whole frozen and frozen fillet) in 2016 at approximately 250000tonnes with strengthened demand for frozen pangasius fillet consumed by both the household and catering sectors. Imported pangasius fillet in the market has popularized fillet consumption especially in Asia and Latin America where fish is generally consumed whole.

In a region where fish is generally preference is for whole fish, the demand for freshwater fillet particularly pangasius fillet has increased significantly. This is largely due to the persistent effort by the industry in Vietnam. China has become the largest market for Vietnamese panga in Asia overtaking Thailand in 2016 with about 33515tonnes of pangasius imports; approximately 100% growth year-on-year. Thailand imported 24837tonnes 2016 with 20% increase from 2015 followed by Singapore (17591 tonnes). In Singapore retail market, fresh thawed pangasius was sold at US$ 28/kg in early March. Other markets in the region which continue to show good demand are Japan and India. Average import prices paid in Japan for frozen panga fillet was US$3.15/Kg.In India, pangasius is predominantly consumed through catering trade. In the Thailand,wholesale prices of fresh pangasius in early February ranged from US$0.70-0.90/Kg.

Approximately 90% of the pangasius which enters the Latin American markets are frozen fillet, primarily supplied by Vietnam and in 2016; approximately 125000tonnes were imported, which was about 12% more than 2015. The three largest markets Mexico, Brazil and Colombia take up shares of 46%, 2705% and 19.5% shares respectively. According to the Vietnam ASSOCIATION OF Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) exports of pangasius form Vietnam in 2016 strengthened by almost 10% to reach US$ 1.71 billion form 2015.

Asia poised to lead market direction

Fish consumption in Asia is much higher than the global average at 23.1 kg per capita in 2013. Global average was 20.3 kg in 2015. Among the leading aquaculture producers in Asia, the average per capita fish consumption varies significantly. It is 55 kg in Malaysia, 38kg in China, 7Kg in India, 21.2 kg in Bangladesh 34.8kg in Vietnam, 31.8 kg in Indonesia, 53.5kg in South Korea, etc. Hence, evidently coupled with the significant developments in the global fishery trade flow of aquaculture products, Asia expected to increasingly dominate global fishery supply as well as demand. The population in Asia based on latest estimates in 2016 is nearly 4.5 billion, of which about 524 million are classified as middle class comprising 28% of the world’s middle class population. Asia which obviously absorbs more high value seafood compared to anywhere else in the world is therefore poised to continue as potential market for aquaculture Fishery products.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *