Misleading EU tilapia import statistics



EU tilapia import statistics for 2012 are misleading because the fish species Pangasius and tilapia have been mixed. Adjusted for Pangasius Inocap estimates tilapia import to the EU in 2012 to 19.000 ton, which equals the volume for 2011.

European Union (EU) trade is recorded in the database systems of Eurostat. According to Eurostat statistics, the EU imports of tilapia increased by 53% from 19.000 tons in 2011 to 29.000 tons in 2012. However, the numbers include also the freshwater fish Pangasius.
Data from Eurostat is frequently referred to and used in business planning and decisions. At the World Tilapia Conference in Rio de Janeiro in September 2013, the inflated and misleading numbers were presented in front of a world audience.

Until 2009 Eurostat recorded tilapia and pangasius as ‘other freshwater fish’ and the only way to estimate EU imports was to look at export statistics of the exporting countries. In 2010 Eurostat started recording tilapia and Pangasius as separate categories, and the industry finally had good and easily accessible import statistics. But it lasted only for two years.

From the year 2012, Eurostat made changes to its nomenclature and Pangasius disappeared as a separate category and is reported as ‘other freshwater fish’ or ‘tilapia’.

As shown by the chart to the right below Pangasius disappears in 2012 while the two other categories increase. For the most Pangasius has moved into ‘other freshwater fish’, but it also interferes with ‘tilapia’ by about 10.000 tons in 2012.


Analysis of import changes from 2011 to 2012 by country, France and the United Kingdom show a combined increase in tilapia imports of 9.000 tons, and the entire increase seems to be from Pangasius having moved into the ‘tilapia’ category. For France ‘Pangasius’ was down ‐5.300 tons to zero, ‘other freshwater fish’ was down by ‐1.900 tons and ‘tilapia’ increased by 5.000 tons. Net change of the three categories was down by ‐2.200 tons. In the case of UK, ‘Pangasius’ was down ‐9.100 tons to zero, ‘other freshwater fish’ increased by 3.000 tons and ‘tilapia’ increased by 4.000 tons. Net change for the three categories was down ‐2.100 tons.