Milkfish is the most widely cultured and consumed fish in the Philippines. Thousands of aquaculture operators are engaged in this industry ranging from small-scale family enterprises to large corporations. The smaller producers are responsible for the majority of the country’s production but they only produce milkfish for the domestic market since their traceability and quality standards are not sufficient.
The export of milkfish from the Philippines is dominated by a handful of large Filipino owned companies that farm, process and export their produce themselves. By doing this, these companies are able to keep production costs minimal in this low margin seafood commodity. Additionally, by controlling
the supply chain, they are able to ensure traceability and quality standards needed to export to demanding markets like the European Union. Milkfish products are mostly exported to markets with a large population of overseas workers and migrants from southeast Asian nations. Popular product lines in these markets include frozen fillets and frozen whole milkfish.
Milkfish are cultured in a wide range of environments using a variety of culture methods. Seed stock are sometimes wild captured but in most cases originate from hatcheries. In freshwater and brackish water environments milkfish are cultured in fishponds and pens while in marine environments milkfish are cultured in floating cages and occasionally in pens. The number of suitable locations for fishponds and fish pens is limited, making it hard for this subsector to further expand its production capacity. Additionally, the national government has banned the development of new fish ponds and the new administration has recently (June 2016) requested owners of fish pens around Manila (Laguna Bay) to dismantle their pens due to environmental and food safety concerns. On the other hand, the culture of milkfish in floating cages at sea is booming since plenty of suitable locations are available. Also, milkfish cultured in a marine environment taste better and fetch higher prices.
Although the annual total production volume and export of milkfish has remained stable in the past few years, the volume of farmed high quality milkfish has been increasing significantly. This trend is expected to continue in the coming years as both local and overseas consumers are becoming more demanding.
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