Taiwan is establishing itself as a global supplier of premium tilapia on the back of local aquaculture operators gaining certification by Netherlands-based Aquaculture Stewardship Council.
Around two dozen farmers have gained the ASC certification since 2013, underscoring the commitment of the sector to maintaining the country’s competitive edge in farming the in-demand fish, according to Taiwan Tilapia Alliance.
TTA Chief Executive Officer Shih Yuan-yuan said ASC International Standards for Responsible Tilapia Aquaculture are the global benchmark and cover seven categories like animal welfare, disease control, environmental, labor and social practices.
“On top of ensuring Taiwan-raised tilapia meet the highest quality standards, ASC certification opens the door for local farmers to tap the European market,” Shih said. “These products also command much better prices.”
According to Shih, Taiwan produces between 60,000 and 80,000 tons of tilapia every year, with half exported to Saudi Arabia, South Korea and the US. Total output hit NT$2.1 billion (US$63.29 million) last year.
In addition to its warm climate suitable for cultivating larger fish year-round, Taiwan boasts highly skilled farmers and a well-established industry framework. From 1993 to 2000, Taiwan was the world’s leading supplier of tilapia.
But over the past few years, competition from mainland China has intensified. In 2015, aquaculturists on the other side of the strait churned out 10 times the amount produced in Taiwan.
Yeh Che-wei, president of Chiayi County-based Tosei Seafood Co. Ltd., said ASC certification plays a vital role in helping Taiwan farmers keep their heads above water. “We are the first outfit in Taiwan to join this esteemed club and such recognition of our fish is certain to guarantee the sustainable development of the business.”
Despite higher production costs stemming from ASC compliance, Yeh said the investment is worthwhile.
“Other than additional business in Europe, we have been approached to supply tilapia at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics,” he said. “We firmly believe this opportunity will help lift the profile of Taiwan tilapia worldwide.”