Paiche in Peru

Paiche (Arapaima gigas) is the largest scaled fish species living in the Amazon basin. As an aquaculture species and product it has a lot of potential, as it is fast growing and has firm white meat with few intramuscular bones. In 2016 there were 499 registered, small-scale paiche farmers using extensive culture in ponds, but a lot of unregistered, informal farmers also exist. Farming of paiche in the Peruvian Amazon is in a very primitive phase and has to overcome a few obstacles before it could be considered a serious aquaculture product. At the moment, farmers know how to (re-)produce paiche and grow them up to 10-12 kilos, but lack knowledge on making adjustments to their farming practices regarding water management and environmental impact which are now limited or non-existent. In addition, issues arise after the fish has reached its commercial size, like: i) lack of refrigerated facilities near the farms, ii) expensive and risky transport from farms to processing plants in Lima and iii) lack of knowledge on microbiological requirements needed for export. Last but not least, fry production fully depends on spontaneous reproduction, making farmers unable to guarantee a stable supply. Despite these problems however, paiche is a beautiful product for the European market which will definitely find its way to the higher level markets worldwide (indication of cost price clean fillet: US$ 15.00/kg ex Lima). With the help of many (inter-)national public and private institutions to help the sector mature in the coming years, paiche is a fish of the future.


Sourcing news

Paiche production and export statistics

Species wise production

Source: 2013 to 2016 data comes from the FAO (2018), 2017 data comes from the Ministry of Production of Peru (2018).

Data from the FAO and Ministry of Produce are showing almost the same production figures for paiche, as can also be seen in the production per region graph. Paiche production is still low and

erratic. The higher production figures after 2012 production were probably due to less production by part of the biggest farmer, Acuicola de los Paiches. The bottleneck for paiche production expansion is the unstable supply of fingerlings. Fingerlings can only be acquired through spontaneous natural reproduction, which is a lengthy and uncertain process involving several years as the species does not have a high fecundity. At the same time, grow-out of paiche often takes over a whole year, and before ponds can be stocked again with new fry the harvest needs to be sold first. This explains why some years have higher production volumes, when the fish are harvested; and low production volumes, when the ponds have been newly stocked and fingerlings are still growing.

Production per region

Source: Ministry of Production of Peru, Aquaculture Department (2018)

Most of the registered production takes place in Loreto, which is the northernmost region. Loreto covers around one-third of Peru and holds a large part of the Peruvian Amazon jungle and river basin. In the last three years other regions started producing (or registering) paiche, as farmers were informed about the potential of this fish. Due to high numbers of unregistered and informal farmers, production figures per region are likely to be higher. However, these unregistered farmers are only producing for local markets.

Export markets

Source: ADEX, Asociación de Exportadores

Export of paiche is minimal. Most of the production ends up at small local markets or restaurants. At the moment only the United States and Hong Kong are the primary buyers of paiche from Peru. The composition of 'Other' countries differs per year. In 2015 they included Japan, Philippines and Norway. The difference between the amounts of paiche that was produced compared to what was exported in 2013 is likely a result from one the largest paiche farmer, Acuicola de los Paiches. This company only stocks and harvest once a year, and tries to sell its harvest as soon as possible. It is likely that in 2013 the company exported its inventory of 2012.

Export products in 2015 (tonnes)

Source: ADEX, Asociación de Exportadores

The little amount of paiche that is exported are either frozen fillets or live fingerlings (especially to Asia). Due to its big size and firm white meat, paiche is ideal for making portions, slices and big fillets. The export of fingerlings is a result from fact that seed supply still depends on spontaneous reproduction. As having a reproducing pair of paiche takes time and is often uncertain, the ability to produce live fingerlings is quite valuable. In 2015 the price for 24 tons of fingerlings was US$ 308,222 FOB, which comes down to US$ 12.67 FOB per kilogram.

Supply Chain

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Risk assessment

Environmental risks

  • Loss of biodiversity. As aquaculture in Peru is growing, the number of ponds is increasing in deterioration of the natural surroundings, especially in the Amazon region.
  • Water pollution. The Peruvian institutions control the pollution of the water quite intensively, but especially the smaller farmers are difficult to control.
  • Entry of diseases and waste from upstream villages and mining’s.
  • Erosion

Social risks

  • Workers safety and rights in production plants and farms.
  • Informality, corruption by part of governmental institutions, lack of associations.
  • Neighborhood and tribe conflicts.

Quality and supply chain risks

  • Lack of production plants in all Amazon farming areas (breaches of cold chain).
  • Slow governmental process at all stages (documents, permits, export certificates, etc).
  • Lack of international certifications like GlobalG.A.P., ASC, BRC and IFS.
  • Lack of experience in export (short-term minded commercial approach).

Species in Peru

Click on the species and find out more about the species in Peru