Tilapia Fish Handling And Marketing
Tilapia is generally marketed in rural areas and local markets in developing countries, either fresh or iced, with little handling and processing. However, the global tilapia market is growing sharply, not only in producing regions (mainly South-east Asia, the Far East and Africa), but also in many non-producing regions, such as the USA, Europe and Australia.
More attention should therefore be paid to tilapia handling and processing in order to maintain quality and meet the quality standards required by external markets. Poor handling and holding conditions, inadequate processing and the use of inappropriate processing methods can seriously affect the quality of tilapia and increase postharvest losses. For example, Enujiugha and Nwanna reported that more than 20% of Nile tilapia and African catfish yields were lost in Nigeria as a result of inadequate handling and processing.
Live tilapia have become an important product in the market in many parts of the world where consumers prefer to buy live rather than iced or frozen fish (Singh and Daud, 2001). It is becoming common to find live tilapia in display tanks and aquaria in seafood restaurants and supermarkets in countries like Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia (Singh and Daud, 2001). However, live food systems require effective support systems, including live holding containers, specially equipped trucks, live holding centres and other infrastructure components.
Consumers prefer to pay higher prices in order to get live fish. In Malaysia, for example, the price of live red tilapia is 37–40% higher than that of chilled tilapia. The price of live tilapia in Egypt, particularly in large cities such as Cairo and Alexandria, is 50–75% higher than that of iced fish of similar sizes.
Singh and Daud described the different steps and processes involved in the handling and marketing of tilapia in Malaysia, including transport, distribution, display and holding facilities.
A modern technology has been developed by the Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MARDI) for the transport of live fish such as tilapia in a minimum quantity of water. The system involves transferring the fish into tanks at a temperature of 21°C for about 10 h to reduce stress.
The water in the tanks is gradually cooled to 11°C, with the addition of ice, to reduce fish activity. The fish are then packed in plastic bags with water and oxygen at a fish : water ratio of 1 : 1. The bags are tied and placed in polystyrene boxes, which are sealed and transferred to refrigerated trucks maintained at 15°C and transported to their final destination.
On arrival, the fish are stocked in holding facilities and left to regain their normal physiological functions as the temperature gradually rises. By using this technique, live tilapia can be transported for a journey of 12 h without any mortality on arrival.
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