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New Tilapia Strain Driving Growth in Egypt's Aquaculture Sector

21 January 2014

EGYPT - While Egypt has struggled with violence and political unrest over the past year, the country’s aquaculture sector has experienced stability and growth with the introduction of a new fast-growing strain of Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus).

Developed through a selective breeding programme, the ‘Abbassa Strain’ grows up to 28 per cent faster than the best commercial breed in the country, and is expected to bring much-needed economic, food and nutrition security benefits to millions of Egyptians.

Over the last year breeding centers established by the IEIDEAS project have supplied 50 fish farms and 130 hatcheries with the fast-growing strain, and the hatcheries plan to supply at least 2,000 more farms in 2014.

These private sector businesses are playing a key role in disseminating the highly productive fish to farmers, who will receive a much-needed boost in productivity.

“Once I got the broodstock of the new strain, I decided to expand my hatchery to have a separate facility for the Abbassa strain, and in the future I may replace all the broodstock in the hatchery with the Abbassa strain,” says hatchery owner, Ahmad El-Sharaky, who received the strain in July 2012.

The expansion of businesses, like Ahmad’s hatchery, is a key step towards the project’s goal of increasing employment in the aquaculture sector, which will help boost incomes and stabilise the lives of thousands of vulnerable households.

While political instability has restricted the project’s on-farm growth trials of the Abbassa strain, fish farmers are already reporting a clear improvement in the growth rate.

“Among some of the farmers who stocked the new strain in their ponds this year, there was a noticeable difference in growth compared to the ordinary strain,” explains Ahmad.

Boosting aquaculture productivity will increase food and nutrition security by making Nile tilapia available and affordable for the growing population, who are demanding low-cost animal source food alternatives to meat and poultry.

The IEIDEAS project, now entering its third year, is helping to strengthen the aquaculture industry and generate employment for the one hundred thousand men and women who depend on the sector.

Ahmad notes: “There was a huge demand for the new strain from the fish farmers once they knew that there is a new improved strain in the market.”

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