Brazil bans Vietnamese tilapia imports pending health protocol review

By Ana Mano

SAO PAULO, Feb 15 (Reuters) - The Brazilian Agriculture Ministry has ordered the immediate suspension of tilapia imports from Vietnam pending a review of current health protocols, according to a statement on Thursday.

The ministry cited specific concerns regarding "introduction of the TiLV virus," which could harm the national industry.

The measure was published in the Official Gazette the day before, the statement said.

The decision was made after meetings with Brazil's Aquaculture and Fisheries Ministry and representatives of the local industry.

The ban on Vietnamese tilapia imports will remain in force until the health protocol review is complete, the government said.

Vietnam was the only country Brazil imported tilapia from in 2023, the agriculture ministry told Reuters in a separate statement.

The ministry said Brazil imported 25 metric tons of tilapia from the Asian nation, a trade representing $118,000.

According to the most recent data available from Peixe BR, a trade group representing local fisheries, Brazil produced 860,355 metric tons of fish in 2022, 64% of it tilapia.

Peixe BR says Brazil's own tilapia production is relatively small relative to peers like China, where about a third of global supplies come from, but is growing.

In 2022, global tilapia supplies were 6.5 million metric tons, as estimated by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Brazil exported $24 million worth of fish products in 2022, with tilapia representing 98% of the trade, according to Peixe BR's website, which also shows the U.S. as Brazil's main customer.

An unspecified "disease outbreak," however, reduced Brazilian exports in the months that followed, according to a report from FAO covering sales in the first half of 2023, when Brazilian tilapia exports fell 32% by volume, to 3,319 metric tons.

(Reporting by Ana Mano; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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