Susanne Arfelt Rajamand: Royal Greenland moving “back to basics” with focus on core species

"We are looking at how to streamline how to be smarter, how to be more efficient, and how to adapt to what we know are going to be some pretty shaky markets in the future."
Royal Greenland CEO Susanne Arfelt Rajamand
Royal Greenland CEO Susanne Arfelt Rajamand | Photo by Cliff White/SeafoodSource
10+ Min

Susanne Arfelt Rajamand has been the CEO of Nuuk, Greenland-based Royal Greenland since November 2022. It recently announced it posted a DKK 255 million (USD 36.8 million, EUR 34.2 million) pre-tax loss in 2023.

SeafoodSource: How would you describe Royal Greenland’s positioning right now?

Rajamand: We've been very successful in continuously growing our four species: prawns, snow crab, Greenlandic halibut, and cod. But, there's absolutely no doubt that similar to many other companies in the industry, the post-Covid time has been one of adjustment and other unprecedented experiences.

Inflation has significantly hit consumers, and we are also feeling that in our business. So, we are in a time where we were looking into our business and deciding what is the right structure to capture tomorrow. We are a 250-year-old company this year. That's a big number. There are very few companies that have that kind of heritage, and we're really looking into the future and asking how we [improve].

SeafoodSource: How is that review process taking shape?

Rajamand: I would say we're just beginning, but we're absolutely returning to a focus on our core species and our core footprints, which is obviously Greenland first and foremost and then Canada, looking at how can we get more out of where we are already deeply invested and how can we capture opportunities in a different way with more focus and more simplicity in the way that we operate in our infrastructure.

SeafoodSource: What is unique about Royal Greenland? What are the advantages and disadvantages of being based in Greenland?

Rajamand: Being Greenlandic is absolutely a massive advantage. Everybody wants to be part of the Arctic space, even China and Singapore declaring that they're part of the Arctic. Being up north in some of the cleanest waters in the world in a very remote destination offers a very different, unique selling point.

Our North Atlantic Champion Strategy, which was set out about 12 years ago, has definitely been advantageous. At that point in time, we were primarily a Scandinavian company with a footprint in certain European markets. What has happened over the last decade is that we have become truly a global company. We have a bigger presence in Asia. We have a good stronghold still in our core region, which we define as Europe, and then we managed to get a significant footprint of 15 percent in North America, which really is very important for us as a company because it just buffers for risk.

Clearly, in the geopolitical situation that we're in now, the business world is a lot harder to navigate. But, Greenland being a smaller country has definitely allowed some opportunities and some conversations that we may not be able to have otherwise.

SeafoodSource: You recently opened up a new processing facility in the remote town of Tasiilaq. How do you manage the logistics of operating in such a vast and sparsely populated place?

Rajamand: Operating in Greenland is unique in every way. Our new plant in Tasiilaq really speaks to the core of who we are. It’s a very remote community in East Greenland with 1,500 inhabitants, most of whom haven't had an opportunity to work for many years. So, when we were asked to put in our pitch for the quota that was being released [by Greenland’s government in exchange for an economic development program], it was very natural that that quota would fall to Royal Greenland because that is exactly the type of work that we do.

We create employment for these people living in very remote areas. With us being present with small- and medium-sized facilities in some of these remote settlements, it means that there's a place you can learn how to work and get integrated into the global economy. That’s why at our opening in Tasiilaq, despite it being a very far-off place, we had the prime minister, we had the finance minister, and we had the chairwoman of Royal Greenland there because it is important for us and for Greenland.

Operating in Greenland, everything is different. That's one of the things that we pride ourselves on and we really try to explain and share with our customers. When you buy goods from us, they have been through a totally different process. Our Greenlandic halibut is caught in the northern part of Greenland, and we’re not able to get in and catch it until the ice breaks.

This year, we have seen lower-than-expected catch rates because the ice has been too thick for us to catch them. There are so many things on a daily level that are more complicated. If there's a little thing that breaks in a factory, it's very unlikely that we have a backup because we cannot have backup for everything in our facility across all of our 38 facilities. Everything is more difficult, but that's also why we believe Royal Greenland is uniquely placed to navigate and fully optimize that opportunity because that has been the way that we've been operating for many years.

SeafoodSource: How tied to to the company's mission is national economic development and progressing Greenland’s economic agenda as a whole?

Rajamand: We are very tied in; we are 100 percent owned by the Greenlandic people, and some like to refer to us as a state-owned enterprise; however, I say we are owned by the 56,661 people in Greenland. We have a very tight collaboration with the government, including monthly meetings with our owner representative, which in this case is Múte Bourup Egede – the chairman of the Naalakkersuisut [Greenland’s Parliament] – to understand what's on the government’s agenda for us to share what's on ours. 

We have a very well-managed, professional board which I report to, and we remain in close collaboration on the company’s commercial agenda. But, clearly because of our ownership, we're keen to hear what our key stakeholders expect from us and what they want from us. Some of it is described in the new owner policy that's currently being discussed or being reviewed, where there are some indications on what is expected from Air Greenland, Royal Greenland, Royal Arctic Line, and other state companies so each of us can find our piece of the puzzle and ensure that we contribute in the best possible way. 

Additionally, we have 1,470 Greelandic people working for us, making us the largest company in Greenland, and that’s a big part of our social mission. But, that can sometimes be difficult to navigate, trying to figure out how to best live up to our social contract and how to successfully operate as a fully effective commercial entity. That's something that we need to get better at. It is very easy for that framework to slip over time, and it's something that we're working on right now, being clearer on how we function – but also to ensure that there's a better alignment and understanding with everybody in Greenland who has a keen interest in Royal Greenland’s success.

There's absolutely no doubt that if Royal Greenland sneezes, Greenland catches a cold. It has always been like that. So, we take our economic and financial contribution to Greenland very seriously, and that's also why we are very clear that we need to be as good or better than everybody else in the industry in all parts of our business system. That has to be the goal. Then, on that basis, we see how much profit that’s generating, and we look at how much  the social mission costs us. That is the part that we need to be clearer in, articulating exactly that to ensure that the government of Greenland and all our 56,661 owners understand the choices we make. We're not in the business of politics.

SeafoodSource: Royal Greenland recently decided to close its seafood-processing facility in Matane, Quebec, Canada. Can you explain how this decision fits in with the company’s strategy and plans in Canada?

Rajamand: There's absolutely no doubt that we needed to ...

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