December 29, 2021

Chinese aqua feed sector faces high cost of extruded feeds, feed quality issues

An eFeedLink Hot Topic


China's aquaculture feed production has doubled from 2011 to 2020, reaching more than 21 million tonnes, while the yearly record for aquaculture feed consumption is close to 30 million tonnes.

This growth in feed consumption has usually depended on trash fish. In 2017, trash fish consumption totalled four million tonnes, accounting for more than 25% of China's capture fisheries production. With a low feed conversion ratio of up to 10, aquaculture production using trash fish is considerably unsustainable.

Thus, in 2020, as China's Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs implemented its five major actions for green aquaculture production, the replacement of juvenile trash fish in aquaculture feed with compound feed was one of the action plans. But various factors are slowing down progress in this area.

Since 2013, aquaculture producers have increasingly recognised the technical advantages in feed processing for extruded feed as compared to traditional pelleted feed. By 2020, extruded feed made up 18% of China's aquaculture feed.

However, considering that aquaculture species that have a low feed conversion ratio, feed processing costs for extruded feed are about ¥150-200 (US$23.40-31.24) per tonne higher than pelleted feed. This has compelled some feed mills to reduce costs of extruded feed down to that of pelleted feed, at the expense of the quality of feed formulations.

Coupled with the higher tendency of nutrients being damaged from the high temperature of extrusion, the nutrient value of extruded feed, as a consequence, becomes lower than that of pelleted feed.

Fishmeal is still widely considered to be the preferred protein source in aquaculture, particularly for high-value species. This popularity is attributed to the fact that it has a balanced amino acid profile, contains phospholipids and some essential fatty acids, has good palatability, and has high digestibility and absorption.

In recent years, the imports of Peruvian and Chilean fishmeal have fallen from 68% to below 50%, as lower-cost fishmeal from countries including Vietnam, Thailand, Mauritius and Mexico, enter the Chinese market.

Considering the growing middle class in China, demand for high-value aquaculture species is expected to increase, along with fishmeal demand. Given the above-mentioned market and technical issues, the Chinese aquaculture industry would perhaps need to find a sustainable way forward.

- Shi Tao, eFeedLink