Although India ranks second in the world’s farmed fish production, tilapia, the second most popular farmed fish in the world, has not yet caught on there. Speaking at the FAO/Infofish World Tilapia Conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in early April, USSEC Director for Animal Feed and Soy Meal Program – India, Dr. P. E. Vijay Anand, said that a versatile fish species without intramuscular bones is desired by modern consumers in India, who need a convenient fish that is easy to cook, has a mild odor, firm flesh and other attributes that fit their life style. Tilapia is a fish that readily fits this bill.
Tilapia is one of the most efficient fed species, he said, and it can be fed with a soy-maximized diet. This ideal species supports integrated farming, processing operations and the USSEC-recommended Intensive Pond Aquaculture (IPA) system in India. Additionally, cage farming is in a rudimentary stage in India, offering a great opportunity for aquaculture and tilapia.
Dr. Anand reminded the audience and potential investors that India is losing revenue and opportunities every day by not producing this species in adequate quantities. Based on projects that USSEC has manned successfully, he said it would not be difficult for India to initially produce 100 thousand metric tons (mt) of this species and gradually raise it to 500 mt. This, he said, would increase business for feed mills and utilize more soy in feeds.
Tilapia was originally banned in India because it was considered an exotic species and there was fear that the species would be an environmental threat. USSEC has worked with the industry, explaining why tilapia would be a good fit for India. Based on industry requests, the Indian government has now permitted breeding and farming of a genetically improved variety of tilapia under restricted conditions. Some differences in policy between the federal and state governments still pose procedural hindrances for a faster adoption of this species in India. According to Dr. Anand, many aquaculture entrepreneurs in India are working with the government on this aspect and the species will soon take to commercial pathways and quantities.