If in the case of shrimp aquaculture, it spoke of "renewed optimism," for finfish aquaculture the latest seafood production survey results collated by Rabobank and the Global Seafood Alliance (GSA) speak of a rebound for the main farmed species. If forecasts hold, in 2024 salmon production will return to growth, tilapia will continue its gradual recovery path, pangasius production will also recover, and sea bass and sea bream will have a strong year, which will continue in 2025.
After two consecutive years of weak growth in world production, the third quarter of 2023 marked a turning point for world production of Atlantic salmon, with expectations of a period of structural recovery. Salmon production is expected to grow again and Norway - which is currently announcing a review of its aquaculture permit system - will lead this upward movement.
Global production is forecast to grow by 4.3% in 2024, and by 3.9% in 2025, exceeding 3 million metric tons. However, the report by Rabobank and the GSA makes an important nuance: this will be the case as long as there are no unforeseen biological problems or events. A warning that becomes particularly relevant after the episodes of sea lice recorded in Iceland or those of pancreas disease recorded in Norway during the autumn.
Likewise, the survey also shows that there is still uncertainty about Chile's potential volume growth in the coming years due to new legislation and biological issues. "It is unlikely that production volumes will eclipse 2020 levels before 2025," the report says. The reason is that the year-on-year growth forecast for 2014 is 2.0%, but a decline of 1.8% is expected in 2025.
In addition, the report also warns of possible downside risks as early as 2024 as a consequence of El Niño. "Higher temperatures due to El Niño conditions may lead to higher incidences of algal blooms," it says. However, it also recalls the sector is now better prepared to face possible inconveniences, as demonstrated by the recent massive mortality events recorded in the Reloncavi estuary, Los Lagos region, not directly related to El Niño, but also caused by harmful algal blooms (HABs).
Regarding the rest of the main species, the Rabobank and GSA report places special emphasis on the potential of tilapia. After a pause in 2020, global production gradually started to recover and in 2023 it is expected to eclipse 2019 volumes, closing with 5.3% year-on-year growth. In 2024 it appears that growth will moderate somewhat, although the prediction is that it will remain at 5% and that global production will exceed 7 million metric tons.
Asia is the continent where the strongest growth in tilapia production is expected, particularly in Indonesia, where it is predicted to grow by 5% and 3.7% y-o-y in 2023 and 2024. In the short term, China is expected to maintain its position as the leading producer. However, the report warns that if consumers continue to favor premium species, farmers may switch the species they produce, and this could lead to a slowdown in tilapia production growth to 1% to 2% y/y in the coming years.
The Asian giant will also be key to what happens to pangasius production in 2024. There is slight optimism with this species, but it depends on demand being stronger than in 2023 and stock levels declining, especially in China. Pangasius production is forecast to reach 3.1 million metric tons in 2023, with year-on-year growth of only 0.5%, as weak consumer demand has had a consequential effect throughout the value chain, leaving traders with high inventories.
As for sea bass and sea bream, over the next two years, their production is expected to accelerate, with a year-on-year growth rate of 3.9% in 2024 and 4.7% in 2025. The main driver of this growth will be the continued expansion of Turkey with year-on-year growth of 4% in 2023 and 6% in 2025, exceeding 250,000 metric tons. Despite the competition this poses to production in Greece and Spain, after relatively flat growth over the last decade, both countries are also expected to rebound, growing at a similar 3% year-on-year rate for both 2024 and 2025.
The results of Rabobank and the Global Seafood Alliance's annual aquaculture survey on finfish and shrimp production are based on the views of industry participants. These, in addition to suggesting a more optimistic outlook for 2024 where global shrimp production is expected to recover although remaining below its 10-year historical average, and global salmon production is expected to increase after two years of stagnation or decline, also show concern about the weak global economy.
When asked about their views and concerns for the coming year, the industry experts surveyed pointed to market prices as their main concern. Uncertainty continues about the effects of persistent inflation and the recovery in demand for seafood products.
High costs and stagnant household disposable income continue to challenge consumers in major markets, so respondents were concerned that consumers could be looking for cheaper options, either within the seafood category or toward lower-priced protein options.
The second biggest concern for 2024 is the cost of feed. Most industry respondents do not expect feed prices to be lower in 2024 than they have been in 2023. That said, the report also notes that if prices of key feed raw materials continue the gradual decline seen in 2023, they could partly offset higher fishmeal and fish oil prices.