Fish farm
Photo: FEDEACUA/Piscicola Botero

Examining the success of the tilapia industry in Huila, an emerging aquaculture hub in the Colombian Southwest

Research Brief
1 March 2024

Jorge Marco, Nicolás Valbuena, Diego Valderrama, Mónica Vásquez


1. Is tilapia production in Huila a sustainable endeavor from the Triple Bottom Line (Economic, Social, Environmental) perspective? 

2. Are there any significant differences in sustainability performance between the export- and domestically-oriented sectors?

Key Messages 

  • Two main tilapia production sectors exist in Huila: large-scale exporters (over 80% of output) and mid- to small-scale producers, mainly focused on the domestic market with minimal exports (less than 15% of output). 
  • Large-scale exporters exhibit superior performance in economic and social sustainability compared to domestic producers. However, both production sectors present similar levels of environmental performance. 
  • Despite a larger share of certified production in the export-oriented sector, environmental performance is constrained by the scale of operations. While complying with environmental requirements, such as water quality, feed sources, waste management, and impact assessments, some gains are offset by the larger footprint of their operations. 
  • The social sustainability gap is attributed to improved working conditions in the export-oriented sector, which, benefiting from higher rents through international trade, can offer superior employee benefits, e.g., higher salaries and access to better health and education services. 
  • The economic advantages of large-scale exporters, including economies of scale, enhance their resilience to environmental and economic shocks. Those shocks could put small- and mid-sized producers out of business. 



Files and links

Publication reference
MS 1692
Publication | 8 March 2024