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Aquaculture CRSP 21st Annual Technical Report
Characteristics of Fish Buyers Likely to Purchase Farm-Raised Tilapia in Honduras and

Tenth Work Plan, Product Diversification Research 1 (10PDVR1)

Ivano Neira, Carole R. Engle, and Kwamena Quagrainie
Aquaculture/Fisheries Center
University or Arkansas at Pine Bluff
Pine Bluff, Arkansas, USA


Nicaragua has the physical resources to develop a farm-raised tilapia industry. However no marketing studies have been done to assess the potential to develop a domestic market for farm-raised tilapia in Nicaragua. The purpose of this study was to assess the potential for increasing sales of farm-raised tilapia through the domestic restaurant market in Nicaragua. Direct personal interviews were conducted with 118 restaurant managers selected at random from telephone listings. Information was collected on tilapia and other seafood sales, restaurant and market characteristics, attitudes towards tilapia characteristics, and willingness to add tilapia to the menu. Logit analyses were used to measure the effects of consumer attitudes, entrŽe preferences, and restaurant characteristics on binary choice variables related to whether or not restaurants sold tilapia and the likelihood of adding tilapia to the menu. The most promising restaurant market for tilapia appeared to be older restaurants that offered a variety of food on the menu and those that served steaks. Larger restaurants that considered tilapia to be a high-quality product and that offered "ceviche" (fish marinated in lime juice) on the menu were those that tended to sell tilapia. Tilapia farmers and processors in Nicaragua will need to guarantee and ensure the flavor, quality, and safety of their product, and promote these attributes.

Tilapia, both wild-caught and farm-raised, have become readily available in the Central American region. With 1.2 million ha of water surface area, low labor cost, available land, and a tropical environment, Nicaragua would appear to have the potential to develop a farm-raised tilapia industry. Neighboring countries such as Costa Rica and Honduras have significant farm-raised production of tilapia. Yet commercial aquaculture has developed slowly in Nicaragua.

Tilapia, an introduced, exotic species, currently inhabits all major rivers and lakes in Nicaragua (Saavedra, 2000). Originally introduced in the 1960s, the combination of government stocking programs and hurricane-induced flooding has resulted in established populations throughout the country. Lake Nicaragua supports a significant tilapia fishery that supplies local and export markets in other Central American countries. In addition to the wild catch of tilapia, there are 2,407 ha of reservoirs stocked by the government for villagers' subsistence for tilapia production (Durand, 1997). However, low technology and poor management have resulted in inconsistent harvests. The harvest of tilapia
from both natural water bodies and stocked reservoirs represents both a source of income and protein for people living in the vicinity. Fish are typically produced in mixed-sex production systems and are harvested and consumed at a small size.

Much of the wild-caught tilapia from Lake Nicaragua is exported to other Central American countries. Tilapia are also sold in local markets by fishermen and a number of small farms (Fitzsimmons, 2000). Based on statistics obtained over the last three years from the Nicaraguan Ministry of Fisheries (MEDE-PESCA), tilapia accounts for at least 4% of the total finfish export from Nicaragua. More than 70% of the exported finfish per year went to the United States during the last three years. In 1997, the total finfish catch in Nicaragua was 5,525 metric tons, of which 35% was exported. Export marketing to the United States is difficult due to the small number of brokers handling tilapia. Most successful export companies in Costa Rica and Honduras have developed their own marketing companies in the United States. However, this requires a large scale of production and a developed production infrastructure that may not be possible at the present time in Nicaragua.