Low prices, new markets for Norwegian salmon

Norwegian fish farmers are trying to find new markets for their salmon, as a recent ramp-up in global production — especially at formerly disease-ridden salmon farms in Chile — reduced prices and hurt the industry’s profits in the second half of 2011.

Fish is Norway’s third largest export item — after oil and metals — with 5.7 percent of the total export value in 2009, according to Statistics Norway. The fishing industry employed about 10,000 people in 2009. Norway is producing more salmon than any other country, but its main producers all reported substantial falls in profit for the latter part of last year. 

The world’s largest salmon producer, Marine Harvest ASA, saw fourth quarter net profit fall 91 percent on the year. Leroy Seafood ASA’s net profit fell 85 percent. Leroy’s biggest shareholder, the fishing and processing company Austevoll Seafood ASA, saw net profit fall 89 percent in the fourth quarter from the year before.

SalMar ASA and Faroe-based Bakkafrost PF also saw net profit fall due to lower salmon prices. 

Leroy Seafood said it expected lower profits in 2012 than in 2011. 

“We can’t sit and wait for the customers, we have to go out and push,” said Leroy Chief Executive Henning Beltestad when presenting the company’s fourth-quarter results, according to stocklink.no. 

Beltestad’s comment echoed an earlier statement from Marine Harvest Chief Executive Alf-Helge Aarskog, that the current low prices should be used “to expand the market for Atlantic salmon and attract new customers.”

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