Tilapia in The Philippines

Tilapia are the most cultured freshwater fish in the Philippines and they are listed second in culture volume after milkfish. Until the early 1990’s the Philippines was the globally the top producer of tilapia and most of it was produced for domestic consumption. Since then, many countries have developed their tilapia industry to take advantage of the booming international demand for filleted tilapia. The Philippines completely missed out on this opportunity; the country has not really developed or professionalized its tilapia industry and is still producing for the domestic market only. In 2016 the country produced 259,045 MT of tilapia by means of aquaculture of which approximately a mere 60 MT was exported according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (SSA, 2017) The majority of tilapia production is produced by small family businesses

that operate one or two ponds or cages. Only a few bigger companies engage in large-scale tilapia production operating integrated supply chains. The supply chain is characterized by a lack of transparency and few quality controls. Some large producers with integrated supply chains produce larger sized tilapias in a more controlled fashion and with suitable traceability and quality control measures in place. Their tilapia are mostly processed into fillets for retailers that serve the domestic market. These companies are also responsible for the countries limited tilapia exports. In both the country side and in urban centres, tilapia is an important and cheap source of animal protein for families with limited spending power. With an estimated population of 20 million people, Manila and surroundings cities are the country’s largest market for tilapia. For this reason the main tilapia producing provinces are located around the capital region.


Sourcing news

Tilapia production and export statistics

The majority of Philippine tilapia is produced for the domestic market and there are hardly any exports. The few tilapia that get exported end up in markets like Korea, Austria and the United States.

Species wise production (tonnes)

Source: FAO (2018)

A number of different species and varieties are being cultured but they are all commonly referred to as “tilapia” and neither the farmers nor official figures make a distinction between the different tilapia species or varieties that are being cultured. Tilapia are mostly cultured in freshwater environments but some strains are also cultured in brackish or salt water habitats.

The total production of tilapia by means of aquaculture

production remained stable over the past 5 years and hovered around 260,000 MT annually. These figures provided by FAO seem accurate since local figures by the Bureau of Fishery and Aquaculture Resources (BFAR) show similar production figures. With little innovation or change in the Philippine tilapia sector, production is likely to remain stable in the coming years.

Interestingly, although tilapia are not native they are commonly caught by artisanal fishermen. The BFAR has been actively releasing tilapia fingerlings in rivers and lakes around the country for many years and tilapia landings from fisheries have shown an increasing trend in the past 5 years from 47.4 MT in 2012 to 41.7 MT in 2016 (SSA, 2017).

Production by province in 2016 (tonnes)

Source: BFAR annual report 2016

The Philippines uses a system of numbered regions as shown in the figure below. Each of these regions is made up of a several provinces. Most national government agencies, like the BFAR, operate a main office and collect statistics per region.

Since most of the tilapia is produced for local consumption and sold directly at local markets, tilapia are produced throughout the different regions in the Philippines. The low laying provinces north of the capital region, like Central Luzon (Region III), and south of the capital region, like Calbrazon (Region IV-A), are the top producers because these regions offer large areas of suitable freshwater pond habitat and because these provinces are located near the Philippines biggest market for tilapia, the capital region.


Last updated: 01/01/2017

  • Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC)

    # Farms 0
    # Farms in assessment 0
    # CoC partners 1
    Total volume (MT) 0

Production systems

Supply Chain

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Risk assessment

Potential environmental risks

  • Tilapia are not native to the Philippines and escaped fish can harm local populations of native fish
  • Feed wastes and fish faeces can pollute local waters

Potential social risks

  • None

Potential quality and supply chain risks

  • Lack of traceability in some supply chains
  • Tilapia products from pens should be avoided as these are often contaminated with pathogens

Species in The Philippines

Click on the species and find out more about the species in The Philippines