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.
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.