Norway’s seafood exporters have near-record year despite COVID challenges

Despite the ongoing challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Norwegian seafood exporters managed to have a near-record year of sales.

Norway exported 2.7 million metric tons (MT) of seafood products worth NOK 105.7 billion (USD 12.6 billion, EUR 10.2 billion) last year, the second-highest trade value ever achieved by the Scandinavian country, falling just 1 percent short of 2019’s record.

Norwegian aquaculture supplied 1.2 million MT of exports worth NOK 74.2 billion (USD 8.8 billion, EUR 7.2 billion), with the volume increasing by 3 percent and the value falling by the same margin. The fisheries sector provided a further 1.5 million MT worth NOK 31.5 billion (USD 3.7 billion, EUR 3 billion), representing a 1 percent rise in volume and a 2 percent increase in value. As such, aquaculture accounted for 70 percent of the total export value and 44.9 percent of the volume, while fisheries provided 30 percent of the value and 55.1 percent of the volume.

"Even though 2020 was a very different year, much of our seafood exports have managed to defy the biggest challenges in the wake of the corona[virus] pandemic. We have seen how strong Norwegian seafood is globally and can be proud of the industry´s ability to adapt quickly here at home as well as maintaining the strong position we have with consumers worldwide,” Norwegian Seafood Council CEO Renate Larsen said. "Norwegian seafood has responded to many of the strongest growth trends in consumer behavior, such as an increased focus on value-based choices related to health and sustainability. This is exciting and good news when we now hopefully very soon, start to put the corona[virus] pandemic behind us. The restaurant market will gradually begin to reopen, and many more consumers have learned to make fish and shellfish at home.”

Meanwhile Norway Minister of Fisheries and Seafood Odd Emil Ingebrigtsen, voiced his pleasure that the country’s seafood exports had again exceeded NOK 100 billion (USD 11.9 billion, EUR 9.6 billion) in value.

“The first time we managed this was in 2019, and that we have managed to repeat this in the corona[virus] year 2020, is fantastic,” he said. "The industry deserves credit for the way they have adapted to uncertain and difficult market conditions in 2020. Throughout the year, I have been impressed by the willingness and ability to adapt throughout the industry. This has largely contributed to seafood exports doing well throughout the corona[virus] year.”

Salmon continued to be Norway’s main export species last year, with 1.1 million MT generating overseas sales of NOK 70.1 billion (USD 8.3 billion, EUR 6.8 billion), with the volume up 2 percent but the value falling 3 percent from 2019.

Also from the aquaculture sector, 71,800 MT of trout was exported with a value of NOK 3.9 billion (USD 464.1 million, EUR 376.1 million), representing increases of 21 percent and 5 percent, respectively.

Within Norway’s fisheries sector, cod remained the largest species in value terms, with exports totaling 172,000 MT and NOK 9.6 billion (USD 1.1 billion, EUR 925.7 million), with both the volume and value falling 4 percent.

"After a fantastic start to the year, with price growth for most products, it looked like 2020 would be a promising year for cod exports. During the corona[virus] crisis, however, demand fell, which has resulted in falling prices for most products. Had it not been for the weak Norwegian krone, the fall in prices would have been significantly steeper,” NSC Seafood Analyst Ingrid Kristine Pettersen said. 

The loss of the restaurant segment was the main reason for the declining demand, Petterson said.

There were also reduced exports of saithe and haddock, the country’s second and third most important whitefish species, respectively. Saithe exports amounted to 99,400 MT valued at NOK 2.4 billion (USD 285.5 million, EUR 231.4 million), while the haddock trade totaled 58,700 MT and NOK 1.6 billion (USD 190.4 million, EUR 154.3 million).

However, with a 41 percent increase in the quota last year, Norway’s mackerel exports increased 26 percent in volume and 16 percent in value to 300,000 MT and a record NOK 5 billion (USD 594.9 million, EUR 482.2 million) thanks to strong demand from key markets like Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan.

Additionally, the pelagic sector shipped 316,000 MT of herring worth NOK 3.8 billion (USD 452.2 million, EUR 366.5 million), representing an 11 percent fall in volume but an 18 percent rise in value, with the NSC highlighting a strong consumption growth trend in the German market during the coronavirus crisis.

In terms of markets, Norwegian seafood producers exported 1.7 million MT of products to the European Union totaling NOK 69 billion (USD 8.2 billion, EUR 6.7 billion), up 2 percent up in volume, while the value fell by 1 percent, compared with 2019. 

At the same time, 504,000 MT of fish and shellfish worth NOK 19.8 billion (USD 2.4 billion, EUR 1.9 billion) were exported to Asia, representing decreases of 5 percent and 10 percent respectively. Exports to Eastern Europe amounted to 141,000 MT and NOK 3.5 billion (USD 416.3 million, EUR 337.4 million), down 3 percent and 6 percent.  

Photo courtesy of TemporalStreet/Shutterstock


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