Chile’s salmon exports jumped 33 percent in Q3, with US market leading recovery

A Chilean worker carries a container of salmon fillets.

Chilean salmon and trout exports brought in USD 1.17 billion (EUR 1 billion) during the third quarter of the year, a 33.5 percent boost compared to the USD 877 million (EUR 756 million) in the same quarter of 2020 and slightly surpassing pre-pandemic export levels, according to new information released by the Chilean Salmon Council.

The surge was attributed to a recovery in salmon prices, which averaged USD 8.40 (EUR 7.20) per kilogram in Q3, compared to USD 5.30 (EUR 4.60) per kilogram in Q3 2020. Chile's salmon-export volume reached 139,533 metric tons (MT) in Q3 of 2021, compared to 165,291 MT from the prior year, according to the council’s "Quarterly Report on Salmon Exports,” which is based off information gleaned from Chile's Central Bank and National Customs Service.

The positive third quarter followed a strong second quarter, inwhich exports increased 11.5 percent year-over-year to USD 1.15 billion (EUR 991 million).

“The positive growth and the results of two consecutive quarters confirm the consolidation of the recovery in Chilean salmon exports to the world and demonstrate the recovery of pre-pandemic levels after a very complex year 2020 for all industries, where salmon farming was no exception,” Chilean Salmon Council Executive Director Joanna Davidovich said in a release. “The greater dynamism in exports helps to boost economic activity and employment. Salmon farming has been an engine of development and opportunities, generating a virtuous circle of entrepreneurship, suppliers, and regional development.”

Exports to the United States, the primary destination for Chilean salmon, jumped 58 percent to USD 611 million (EUR 526 million) during Q3, following an upward trend observed since February 2021, reinforcing Chile's consolidation of the market. The value of Chile's salmon shipments to Brazil also increased in Q3, jumping by 104 percent to USD 189 million (EUR 163 million) year-over-year, though 2020 figures dropped sharply in 2020due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the Q3 2021 value total exceeded even that of Q3 2019, which was pre-pandemic.

Chile's salmon exports to China jumped 20 percent year-over-year, reaching USD 18 million (EUR 15.5 million). SalmonChile President Arturo Clément recently said he expects China to soon become one of the world's biggest salmon markets, and that Chile is well-positioned for that eventuality.

“Once the COVID-19 situation begins to normalize, China will resume the growth it had before the pandemic. In the two years prior to the health emergency, China's growth was impressive and, as a result of the restrictions that exist today, it has been complex to develop that market, but I believe that it has significant potential,” he said last month. “Once the COVID situation is normalized, China will grow more than any other market in the world.”

However, Chile's salmon shipments to Japan slipped 3 percent to USD 126 million (EUR 109 million), and its salmon exports to Russia dropped 30 percent to USD 53 million (EUR 46 million). Chile’s relationship with Russia has been strained due to a decision last year from Russia’s veterinary service, Rosselkhoznadzor, placing restrictions on a number of Chilean plants after Russian health authorities reportedly detected traces of crystal violet and antibiotics (oxytetracycline) in farmed salmon. Chile’s national fisheries agency, Sernapesca, worked with its Russian counterparts to try to streamline approval for the Chilean producers and get them off the restricted list.

In response to the incident, Sofofa – the Chilean manufacturers’ association – appointed Clément to lead the Chile-Russia Binational Business Council in a move to improve business relations between the two countries.

In the first nine months of 2021, Chile's exports of salmon and trout reached a total of USD 3.6 billion (EUR 3.1 billion), 11.5 percent higher than the same period of 2020. The Salmon Council said that 2020 was “very complex,” as total exports of salmon and trout dropped 14.6 percent compared to 2019, reaching USD 4.4 billion (EUR 3.8 billion). However, the council noted the market is picking up in 2021, with Q1 exports decreasing 2.9 percent, Q2 increasing 11.5 percent, and Q3 seeing a 33.5 percent expansion.

The Salmon Council expects the market for its salmon to continue to boom as global COVID-19 vaccination efforts progress and economies continue to open back up.

"We expect the recovery of sales in hotels and restaurants to continue, which, added to the growth of new distribution channels such as online and retail sales, mean good projections for salmon farming," Davidovich said.

Four Chilean companies – AquaChile and Salmones Aysén, as well as the local units of Cermaq and Mowi – came together to form the Chilean Salmon Council in May 2020. Together, they represent about half of all Chilean salmon production.  

Photo courtesy of Chilean Salmon Council


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