Tilapia in Vietnam

As early as the 1950s tilapia was introduced as a production species in Vietnam. Until recently farming mainly targeted the domestic market. However, in recent years tilapia has gained more attention as Vietnamese producers have found a niche market, situated between the higher-end suppliers like Indonesia, and the lower quality products provided by Chinese companies. In the year 2011 adverse publicity in European countries resulted in poor sales of pangasius. As it was increasingly difficult for producers and farmers to get investment capital for pangasius, they had to look for alternatives. Tilapia was the preferred alternative for many, as it overlaps

pangasius in many ways; be it in terms of production systems, feed inputs or buyer markets. Export-oriented tilapia production in Vietnam is therefore mainly driven by large companies that have many years of experience with pangasius. Examples of these companies are Hoang Long, NTACO and Vinh Hoan. Vietnam is an attractive source for tilapia products thanks to a number of favourable factors, including many years of experience with pangasius production, an excellent infrastructure (from feed mills to farms and factories), very high production and compliance to food safety standards. Until about 2010 the exports of tilapia earned less than 2 million US$ yearly. From 2011 to 2012 this number doubled. In the following year exports doubled again. In 2014 some sort of a boom could be recognized in exported products. In only four years, tilapia exports increased from 2.5 million US$ to 35.7 million US$ in 2015, although exports have dropped again in 2016 and 2017 to US$ 27 million and US$ 25 million respectively. At the moment there is only one processing and exporting company of tilapia which is shown on the map. You can find this company profile in our STIP supplier database.

  • Factory

Sourcing news

Tilapia production and export statistics

Species wise production in 2015 (tonnes)

Source: Estimation based on feedback from sector representatives.

Preferred production species are red tilapia (Tilapia mossambicus) and black tilapia (Orechromis niloticus). Quite recently these species have been complemented with both blue tilapia (Orechromis aureus) and hybrid species in lower quantities.

Species preference per producers can be explained by various factors. Some producers claim that there are differences in terms of growth dynamics and that they therefore prefer one species over the other.

Black tilapia are said to cope better with colder water temperatures, and it is therefore that this species is preferred in the north of Vietnam. Better growth performance is also the key reason for the introduction of blue tilapia and hybrid species. Red tilapia, on the other hand, seems to yield higher market prices. It also appears that in specific markets where a lot of tilapia is consumed, red tilapia is preferred over black tilapia, which is the case in Malyasia. The same appears to be true for markets with a large population of Malaysians (i.e. in Melbourne, Australia). Finally, there are some producers that claim that there is not much difference between species at all and that their choice simply depends on the availability of fingerling.

Production by province in 2015 (tonnes)

Source: Estimation based on feedback from sector representatives.

The Mekong Delta is a popular place for aquaculture. Similar to pangasius, tilapia and particularly export-oriented tilapia are mostly farmed in the Mekong Delta. However, there is also some production in central and northern Vietnam, exclusively for domestic consumption. Leading provinces in terms of production volumes are Dong Thap, An Giang, Kien Giang and Can Tho.

Tilapia is farmed either in cages or in earthen ponds.

Some farmers use polyculture systems where tilapia is raised together with shrimp or other species. However, these farms are rather small and their sales are directed to the domestic market. It is expected that other provinces will also start to culture tilapia for exports in the future. Tilapia production is expected to increase as a result of an ambitious development plan of the government. This plan aims to increase farm outputs to 300,000 tonnes by 2020, with 50-60% of the total production targeting the export market. In 2014 the total tilapia production was 125,000 tonnes of which only 25,000 tonnes were processed for export, resulting in a total of 11,700 tonnes of final products.

Tilapia export markets

Trade Map (2018), International Trade Centre, intracen.org. Please note that above figures do not contain value added products and 2017 represents mirror data.

Up to 2010, Vietnamese exports of tilapia earned less than 2 million US$ yearly. This number doubled from 2011 to 2012, and doubled again in the following year. In 2014 some sort of a boom could be

recognized in export figures. In only four years tilapia exports increased from 2.5 million US$ to 35.7 million US$ in 2015. This trend did not continue in the following years, as export value dropped in 2016 and 2017.

Tilapia exports value reached more than 27,744 tonnes in 2016, and 25,860 tonnes in 2017. The United States (18%), The Netherlands (12%), and Colombia (8%) were the main importing countries in 2016. 2017 Mirror data shows that China has replaced the Netherlands, which is now the third largest importer with a share of 9%. The European Union as a whole is the most important market partner, accounting for 32% of total exports from Vietnam in 2017. Exports to Mexico, formerly a large importer of tilapia, did not revive in 2016 and 2017.

While exports were predicted to further increase over the coming years, with VASEP estimates of export sales will increase to 45 million US$ in 2016, export value was only US$ 27 mln in 2016.

Export products in 2017 (US$ mln)

Trade Map (2018), International Trade Centre, intracen.org. Please note that above figures do not contain value added products, and 2017 figures are mirror data.

Frozen fillets account for 25% of the total export value, while frozen whole fish cover 54% of the total market share. According to the mirror data, fresh products increased from marginally nothing to 2.8 million from 2016 to 2017. Cured fish exports, salted or in brine, also increased from 0 in 2015 to almost 4 million in 2017.


Last updated: 01/10/2018

  • Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC)

    # Farms 1
    # Farms in assesment 0
    # CoC partners 7
    Total volume (MT) 1,000
  • Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP)

    # Farms 0
    # Hatcheries 0
    # Feed mills 3
    # Factories 4

Do you want to more learn about tilapia farming in Vietnam and its available certifications? Contact us!

Risk assessment

Environmental risks

  • Overfishing due to use of unsustainable feed (indirect impact)
  • Water pollution
  • Biodiversity

Social risks

  • Workers’ safety in factories
  • Workers’ rights in factories
  • Bankruptcy resulting in losses for employees and creditors

Quality and supply chain risks

Given the high integrity of export-oriented tilapia value chains in Vietnam, there are no real supply chain risks, as long as buyers purchase products with accordant traceability (certified products).

Species in Vietnam

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


Take a close look at the world‘s shrimp sector

Read the latest ShrimpTails magazine and zoom in!
Start reading