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Chinese producers introduce new fast-growth tilapia breeds
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By Mark Godfrey, SeafoodSource contributing editor reporting from Beijing, China

Published on Friday, June 12, 2015

Aquaculture producers registered 25 new varieties of fish with the Chinese agriculture ministry this spring, including a fast-growing tilapia that its creator says is ideal for China’s interior landscapes.

Guolian Aquatic’s new breed of tilapia, the “Mei Hua Jiang No. 1,” has an average growing rate of 198 days to a weight of 0.6 kilograms, is highly disease-resistant and adaptable to extremes in temperature, said company director Li Guotong. The fish is more feed-efficient than other varieties, he added, and has a “high rate of males” [preferred by fish producers as they grow bigger and are more time and energy efficient] and will be more suited to cultivation in inland parts of China where temperatures vary from the warm waters of Guolian’s headquarters in the subtropical southern city of Zhanjiang.

Chinese feed producer Tongwei Co., which has in recent years also built up its tilapia farming business, registered the “Zhong Wei No. 1.” Several other varieties, including carp, catfish and tilapia varieties, were registered by the China’s Freshwater Fisheries Research Center, a government body that cooperates closely with counterpart agencies globally and also shares know-how with seafood firms. The agency is central to China’s efforts to grow tilapia output, which doubled to 1.3 million metric tons (MT) in the decade from 2000 to 2010, but which has since struggled to grow due to rising costs and tightened supplies of land and water.

Better known as a shrimp producer and exporters, Guolian is keen to bounce back from 2014 typhoon damage that impacted supply from the company’s shrimp and tilapia ponds. The company wants to improve yields of tilapia to hedge what Li termed as more difficult access to the key U.S. market for its shrimp exports. Shrimp exports from its home base of Zhanjiang in 2014 totalled 58,880 MT worth USD 688 million (EUR 609 million) while tilapia shipments at 58,500 tons were worth USD 261 million (EUR 245 million).

Tilapia was China’s fourth-ranked seafood species exported in 2014 (at 9.47 percent of overall seafood exports) on 403,000 MT worth USD 1.50 billion (EUR 1.32 billion) – down 0.2 percent and up 4.6 percent, respectively, showing export volumes went flat even if export prices for tilapia appeared to holding up last year.

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