Brazil's fish farmers enjoyed best quarter since records began

Figures from Brazilian research organization Embrapa show 48% increase in value of exports compared with last year, with tilapia the star product.
Tilapia remains Brazil's most exported aquaculture species.

Tilapia remains Brazil's most exported aquaculture species.

Photo: Adobe Stock.

Brazilian exports of farmed fish saw significant growth in the first quarter of 2024, with exports reaching $8.73 million, a 48% increase in value and a 20% increase in weight compared to the same period in 2023.

The figures, released by Brazilian agriculture research institute Embrapa, mark the highest value since the institute began monitoring the country's aquaculture exports in 2020.

Fresh or chilled fillets dominated the export categories, comprising 65% of total value, followed by whole frozen fish at 23%.

Tilapia remains the leading export, with North America the main destination

The Embrapa figures reveal that tilapia was Brazil's most exported aquaculture species during Q1 2024, accounting for 95% of total exports and generating $8.31 million. Fresh or chilled tilapia fillets alone contributed $5.64 million.

The United States was the primary destination, representing 89% of exports, with China, Japan, Colombia, and Canada each accounting for 2%.

During the first quarter, the price of fresh fillets rose to $7.57 per kilogram, up 17% from the previous year. Paraná, São Paulo, and Bahia were the top exporting states.

While tilapia remains the leading export, Embrapa suggests that tambaqui, a large species of freshwater fish native to tropical South America, could see future growth as market expansion efforts continue.

“Exports of other farmed fish have grown, particularly tambaqui. Organizations and companies in the tambaqui chain have taken actions to open markets abroad (e.g. the United States) and it is possible that this will result in an increase in exports in the coming months of 2024," stated Embrapa aquaculture economics researcher Manoel Pedroza.

Brazilian aquaculture sector continues growing

According to Brazilian seafood trade body PeixeBR, over the past 10 years fish farming has become the "fastest growing zootechnical activity" in the country, reaching production of 860,355 thousand tons in 2022. It generates around R$9 billion annually, provides 1 million direct jobs and 2 million indirect jobs, and grows at a rate of more than 5% per year.

Commenting on the robust Q1 export figures in Embrapa's report, Pedroza said that “the increase in production and professionalization of the fish farming chain are some of the factors that explain the growth in exports."

"Despite the national market absorbing the vast majority of production, companies in the sector have sought to diversify sales channels through exports”.

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