SFP involvement in China began at the end of 2007, when SFP advised key corporate partners on their tilapia procurement policy and sourcing, evaluating sources in Hainan (seven farms) and Beihai (two farms). SFP’s corporate partner engagement includes both major tilapia suppliers and key retail and foodservice buyers.
2008 – 2010
From 2008 to 2010, SFP conducted audits on 10 tilapia farms in six countries, comparing the three main international standards: GLOBALG.A.P, Global Agriculture Alliance’s Best Aquaculture Practices (GAA/BAP), and the International Standard for Responsible Tilapia Aquaculture developed by the World Wildlife Fund (ASC/ISRTA). The objective of these audits was to identify similarities in criteria and areas where the standards differed. The benchmarking project included four tilapia farms in China. These farms represented both small- and commercial-scale production facilities utilizing two different production systems (pond and cages). Aside from identifying similarities and differences among criteria and requirements used by the three standards, this project also identified outstanding issues in the farms, which most producers were able to address as a result of the trial audit. To date, all four farms are now certified under one or more of the commercial aquaculture standards.
Since early 2011, SFP has initiated a Chinese Tilapia AIP by conducting a series of scoping studies to have an in-depth understanding of the Chinese tilapia supply chain and its challenges as it moves toward sustainable development. The studies, along with multi-stakeholder engagement through the Aquaculture Policy Roundtable (APR), have enabled SFP outstanding capacity to motivate the supply chain to adopt zonal management approaches to achieve regional improvement, hence reducing environmental and social risks along the supply chain.
Field research projects to assess the impact of tilapia farming on the external environment and its associated risks on disease outbreaks
. Along with Hainan Institute of Aquaculture and Hainan University, SFP investigated environmental impacts of tilapia farming through measuring water quality within and outside farming systems (pond and reservoir). The first phase of the study monitored five representative commercial-scale farms in Hainan over two production cycles in 2011 (2nd phase commenced March 2013).
SFP is also working with producer groups (local tilapia associations) and key feed distributors along with Chinese feed companies (e.g., Haid and Tongwei) to enhance tilapia farmers' both technical and institutional capacity to further adopt collaborative measures with zonal management approaches. Such initiative included an orientation workshop in 2011 for selected producers in Hainan on the three major tilapia standards, mentioned above, used in the comparison audits. The workshop introduced the different standards available to tilapia producers in China, particularly raising the farmer’s awareness on environmental issues.
On September 4, 2012, SFP successfully organized its first Aquaculture Policy Roundtable (APR) in Hainan to engage key tilapia processors, farmers, and feed and seed producers in Hainan Province, the largest tilapia production region in China, into an AIP. This roundtable provided face-to-face communication between tilapia producers in China and buyers from North America, and established a roadmap for SFP’s Chinese Tilapia AIP to pilot its zonal management approach in Hainan.
The roundtable achieved agreement among participants to establish a Hainan Tilapia Sustainability Alliance, at which zonal management on disease control, water resource allocation and pollution elimination, biodiversity impacts, and food safety regulation will be introduced to the supply chain. A regional profile of tilapia was planned to be established and updated in FishSource and Metrics systems to guide buyers and retailers for sustainable sourcing of tilapia.
Field research projects to assess the impact of tilapia farming on the external environment and its associated risks on disease outbreaks continued in collaboration with a local university in 2013. The study identified three farming zones within Hainan Island and assessed the impacts of existing farming practices and management on aquatic environment around nine typical farms, including both small-to-medium- and commercial-scale farms. The study aims to evaluate cumulative environmental impacts and disease risks at the zonal level.
In mid-June, late August, and early November 2013, SFP organized local roundtables with participation from a diverse group of stakeholders across main production regions (including Wenchang, Qionghai, and Ding’an counties). Participants included hatcheries, feed mills, feed distributors, farmers, middlemen (fish harvesters and service providers), processors, and research institutes, as well as representatives of government aquaculture extensions. At these meetings, local farmers’ groups and co-ops discussed the feasibility of establishing their own Code of Good Practices (CoGP) as a guideline to unite stakeholders’ voices and actions, setting up the foundation to build regional management for tilapia production. Foreign and domestic experts on aquaculture disease and epidemiology were invited to share their knowledge and experiences with producers. Face-to-face communication between farmers and processors was facilitated, paving the way for smoother collaboration in the future. Proposed actions will improve information sharing and data reporting across the local supply chain, and collaborative measures to control food safety and environmental impacts within the region.
In November 2013, five key tilapia stakeholders (including processors, feed and seed producers, and service providers) in Hainan signed an MoU with SFP to jointly launch the Hainan Tilapia Sustainability Alliance. The five founding member companies of the Alliance (Kingwin Aquaculture, ProGift, Sky-Blue Ocean, Xiangtai, and Tongwei) have actively worked with SFP to build the institutional structure of the Alliance, and develop technical and managerial contents of a CoGP.
On the state level, SFP has worked closely with the national industry association, China Aquatic Product Processing and Marketing Alliance (CAPPMA). SFP has been actively involved with CAPPMA and its members in discussing sustainable development of tilapia at forums and conferences, advising key Chinese policy makers to improve their regulations and standards. SFP assisted CAPPMA in organizing the 10th Chinese Tilapia Industry Forum, which was held in Dalian on November 6, 2013. At the forum, the zonal management approach and the multi-stakeholder dialogue under the Hainan Tilapia Sustainability Alliance was presented to a wider audience of domestic and international stakeholders.
January – March
SFP has continued its dialogue with the Hainan Provincial Government, as well as county-level administrations, to discuss potential collaboration with public agencies in key production regions.
Working with the five founding members of the Hainan Tilapia Sustainability Alliance, SFP has developed a workplan for 2014, which identifies priorities on farmers’ training on water management and institutional capacity building for regional collaboration.
Field research on regional environmental impact assessment and disease risks evaluation has been conducted. All field data were processed and analyzed, and the final reports have been developed. Key findings and summary reports were shared with local stakeholders at some workshops.
At the Seafood North America exhibition in Boston, SFP convened a Supplier Roundtable meeting to share progress with the AIP and strengthen supply chain engagement with the AIP.
April – July
In mid-May 2014, a successful roundtable with over 70 attendees was organized in Wenchang, the largest tilapia-producing zone in Hainan, to allow farmers to have a face-to-face conversation with leading buyers and retailers from North America. The roundtable served as an efficient platform to exchange market information, helping farmers to understand market demands and the importance of improvements needed to meet the demands. Furthermore, such straightforward dialogue facilitated the building of trust among various stakeholders along the supply chain. This resulted in gaining more support and commitment from corporate partners to collaborate with farmers and processors on experimenting best practices at both farm and zonal levels.
Meanwhile, SFP has managed to secure a grant to fully support the progress of the Hainan tilapia AIP on the ground. This has encouraged the local industry to take initiative in registering the Hainan Tilapia Sustainability Alliance as a legal entity in China. This also marks a milestone for the local industry leadership, indicating the confidence and vision they jointly hold through industry-wide collaboration toward sustainable development.
The five founding members of the Alliance and SFP have continued working on developing the Code of Good Practices and essential structure for the Alliance administration and management. A Science Advisory Committee and a board are under construction for the Alliance. A technical officer has been hired to provide technical guidance to AIP participants in order to strengthen the Alliance further.
The Alliance’s bilingual website is under construction and awaiting government approval on registration. This website will host a number of reports and information regarding the Hainan tilapia industry and its market trends, as well as environmental and disease data.
August – November
On September 11, after a month of coordination with domestic research institutes and key industry partners, the Alliance hosted a workshop to introduce the concept and approaches of zonal management for aquaculture to a wide-ranging audience, including farmers, hatcheries, feedmills, processors, and governments. The workshop, which served to launch the Farm-in-Transit project funded by IDH Foundation, also offered an opportunity for local governments to learn about the zonal management and traceability systems that are essential to help industry build a regional brand for Hainan tilapia.
During the workshop, leading members of the Alliance agreed to collaborate, under SFP’s facilitation, with the two national research institutes: the Pearl River Institute of Aquaculture (Guangzhou), and the Research Center for Quality and Standards, the Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences (Beijing). The collaboration will help local industry strengthen the development of a Code of Good Practices and provide technical guidance to farmers on better water management and disease control measures. Meanwhile, it will help local industry build a traceability system to track small- to medium-scale farmers’ practices and incorporate that system with the one employed by processing plants. In that way, a fully traceable progression from fingerlings to fillets will be established for a zone in near future.
During late September and October, based on the agreement between the Alliance members and research institutes, 10 farms were identified as pilot sites to start collecting soil and water properties using on-site monitoring equipment to model the dynamics of physical and bio-chemical changes within the aquatic environment where tilapia grows. Experts from the Pearl River Institute of Aquaculture have trained technicians from the Kingwin Co. (service provider), along with farmers, on basic theory and techniques to manage water quality.
In addition, in late October, the Alliance’s organizational structure was pre-approved by the government. So, the Alliance started building its board and executive team. With SFP’s facilitation, a group of over 50 farmers, feedmills, hatchery, service-providers, and processors all gathered on October 25 to elect board members and officers. This was the first time the Hainan tilapia industry has ever had a transparent and democratic election covering the entire supply chain. This was also the first time the industry has formed a board including stakeholders from each sector of the supply chain. The board consists of 11 members, four of which are small- or medium-scale farmers. This outcome has been widely applauded, as many people see it a breakthrough indicating that the industry will have better internal communication and coordination, as well as a unified and strong voice to advocate for sustainable development.
The leading buyer, Fishin’ Co., has continued supporting the Hainan industry to explore multi-stakeholder collaboration throughout the value chain. Their president, Mr. Manish Kumar, gave a speech at the workshop in September to urge local governments and industry to work together. He visited Hainan again in early November to investigate key issues with farmers through face-to-face communication and shared his opinions on market demands for certified products. His knowledge sharing not only rebuilt many farmers’ confidence in the tilapia market, but also strengthened linkages throughout the supply chain.
On November 5, during the China Seafood Expo in Qingdao, SFP held the second Chinese Tilapia Supplier Roundtable to discuss the lessons learned from the Hainan Tilapia AIP and the potential for industry to initiate more AIPs in China. About 10 representatives from a few buyers and suppliers attended the meeting. The agenda included introducing the AIP toolkit and discussing key sustainability issues of the supply chain. In the end, it was widely acknowledged that some structural issues within the supply chain need to be addressed, other than farm-based certification. Zonal management offers a holistic approach to tackle such challenges. Industry has been encouraged to look for issues and solutions beyond the scope of individual farms