Norway’s seafood export value declines for a second successive month

Published on
June 10, 2020

Norwegian seafood companies generated overseas sales totaling NOK 7.8 billion (USD 840.9 million, EUR 745.9 million) last month, representing a reduction of 9 percent, or NOK 764 million (USD 82.4 million, EUR 73.1 million), compared with May 2019. This was the second month in a row that the country saw a lower export figure. Previously, the industry had posted 18 months of year-on-year growth.

According to the Norwegian Seafood Council (NSC) Director of Market Insight and Market Access Tom-Jørgen Gangsø, the decline in export value owes much to the loss of the restaurant segment in several markets, brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Additionally, the export value has been impacted by weakened purchasing power and considerable uncertainty throughout the value chain and in individual markets, while freight costs have increased because many passenger aircraft that previously carried fresh seafood are now grounded, he said.

However, Gangsø also highlighted that many more people were buying seafood through retail channels.

“This change in consumption can make a positive contribution in the longer-term, as the threshold for making seafood at home is now lower,” he said. “In addition, if our most important markets open in the future, this can strengthen the demand for Norwegian seafood.”

Despite the value decrease in both April and May, the increased trade seen in the opening quarter of the year led to an overall growth of 3 percent for the year to-date, reaching NOK 44.6 billion (USD 4.8 billion, EUR 4.3 billion). Herring and mackerel accounted for around two-thirds of the value increase, while salmon and trout delivered the remaining third.

“There has been a strong demand for pelagic products in 2020,” Gangsø said. “For herring, which is often marketed as products with a long shelf-life, we see an increase in grocery sales in important markets such as Germany. For mackerel, the value increase is due to larger quotas, increased landings in Norway by foreign vessels, and good demand in core markets such as Japan and South Korea.”

The declines in salmon and trout, as well, have been recent developments.

“Although there has been a decline in salmon and trout exports in the last two months, the year started off strongly,” he added.

Norway’s pelagic sector exported 10,800 metric tons (MT) of herring valued at NOK 151 million (USD 16.3 million, EUR 14.4 million) last month, with the volume down 6 percent and the value increasing by 20 percent on last year. At the same time, 12,800 MT of mackerel worth NOK 239 million (USD 25.8 million, EUR 22.9 million) was sold, up 23 percent and 31 percent, respectively.

In total, 134,000 MT of herring worth NOK 1.5 billion (USD 161.7 million, EUR 143.4 million) and 108,000 MT of mackerel valued at NOK 1.9 billion (USD 204.9 million, EUR 181.7 million) were sold to overseas markets in the opening five months of the year. In value terms, Norway has earned 40 percent more from its herring exports this year and 52 percent more from its mackerel.

Reduced salmon prices, cod demand increases

Last month’s salmon exports totaled 85,000 MT, which was 5 percent less than in May 2019. This trade achieved a total sales value of NOK 5.7 billion (USD 614.6 million, EUR 545.1 million), a fall of 15 percent compared with a year previously, with Poland, France, and Denmark providing the main markets. The average price for fresh whole salmon last month was NOK 60.65 (USD 6.54, EUR 5.80) per kilogram, down from NOK 62.13 (USD 6.70, EUR 5.94) in May 2019. 

So far this year, Norway has exported 419,000 MT of salmon worth NOK 29.3 billion (USD 3.2 billion, EUR 2.8 billion), with the volume on par with 2019 and the value up 12 percent.

Over the same five-month period, it has sold 25,200 MT of trout, achieving revenues of NOK 1.5 billion (USD 161.7 million, EUR 143.5 million), with the volume and value up 31 percent and 12 percent respectively.

In the whitefish sector, Norway exported 4,400 MT of fresh cod in May, earning NOK 171 million (USD 18.4 million, EUR 16.4 million), increasing 10 percent and 2 percent respectively. However, for the first five months of the year, 34,600 MT or NOK 1.6 billion (USD 172.5 million, EUR 153 million) worth of these products were sold overseas, representing an 8 percent decrease in volume and a 2 percent drop in value. 

Also last month, 5,400 MT of frozen cod with a value of NOK 259 million (USD 27.9 million, EUR 24.8 million) was exported. This represented a 4 percent increase in volume and a value rise of 16 percent. So far in 2020, 34,000 MT of frozen cod – also worth NOK 1.6 billion – ­has been exported by Norway, down 6 percent in volume but achieving a 6 percent greater value year-on-year. 

Denmark, Poland, and Sweden were the largest markets for Norwegian fresh cod in May, while China, the United Kingdom, and France were the largest recipients of frozen cod.

NSC Analyst Ingrid Kristine Pettersen explained that the council’s market insight and panel data had confirmed that frozen and prepared products in particular have seen growth during the corona crisis.

“The reason for this is a combination of closed fresh fish counters in supermarkets and the need to buy products that can be stored. We also see this from export statistics, where frozen fillet has grown its share in the last two months,” she said.

In May, France was one of the largest markets for frozen cod, with home consumption increasing by 15 percent in the period from week 9 to week 16.

“France is traditionally a fresh seafood market, but an unavailability of fresh produce led to a decline in fresh fillets of cod in the grocery segment. At the same time, we are seeing significant growth for frozen fillets and prepared products. As the restaurants start to open again, the prospects for fresh whitefish products look bright,” NSC Fisheries Envoy Trine Horne said.

In 2019, Norway exported 2.7 million MT of fisheries and aquaculture products, achieving a record revenue of NOK 107.3 billion (USD 11.6 billion, EUR 10.3 billion). 

Photo courtesy of Piotr Wawrzyniuk/Shutterstock

Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

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