Norwegian salmon prices fall as shuttered restaurant trade takes its toll

Published on
February 9, 2021

Norway’s seafood exports fell by a double-digit percentage in January 2021 compared to 2020, largely the result of ongoing downturns related to COVID-19.

Norway exported NOK 8.1 billion (USD 941.5 million, EUR 786.1 million) worth of seafood products last month, some 16 percent or NOK 1.6 billion (USD 185.8 million, EUR 155.3 million) less than it sold to overseas markets in January 2020, with reduced demand for salmon accounting for much of the downturn. Reduced exports of trout and fresh cod compared to the record month of January 2020 also contributed to the lower earnings.

According to the Norwegian Seafood Council (NSC) Director of Market Insight and Market Access Tom-Jørgen Gangsø, there were two factors that proved particularly challenging for Norwegian seafood exports in January.

In addition to encountering strict COVID-19 restrictions in many important markets, exporters have been impacted by closed or partially-closed restaurant sectors, he said.

"In sum, this means lower demand for a number of the most important seafood products from Norway,” Gangsø said. “A small bright spot compared to the previous closure is that in many markets it seems that seafood counters in grocery chains are being kept open.”

The Scandinavian country exported 95,600 metric tons (MT) of salmon worth NOK 5.2 billion (USD 603.9 million, EUR 504.5 million) last month, representing an 11 percent increase in volume but a 23 percent or NOK 1.5 billion (USD 174.2 million, EUR 145.5 million) drop in value compared to January 2020. The average price of fresh whole salmon was NOK 48.79 (USD 5.67, EUR 4.73) per kilogram, compared to NOK 75.53 (USD 8.78, EUR 7.33) a year previously.

"Despite a significant decline in value compared with January last year, salmon prices have remained relatively stable since August. At that time, the average price was NOK 50.70 (USD 5.89, EUR 4.92) per kilogram. Compared with December, the price increased in January by NOK 1.04 (USD 0.12, EUR 0.10) per kilogram, or 2 percent. Increased export volume and reduced sales to the restaurant sector are behind the relatively low price,” NSC Seafood Analyst Paul Aandahl said.

Also in the salmonid trade, Norway sold 3,800 MT of trout worth NOK 218 million (USD 25.3 million, EUR 21.2 million) last month, with the volume and value falling by 32 percent and 38 percent respectively year-on-year.

Compared with fresh salmon, fresh trout has had a positive price development in recent months, and in January the price was 8 percent higher for fresh whole trout, Aandahl said.

From its fisheries sector, Norway exported 4,000 MT of fresh cod in January, earning NOK 182 million (USD 21.1 million, EUR 17.7 million), representing year-on-year decreases in volume and value of 34 percent and 44 percent respectively. Included in this was 409 MT of skrei valued at NOK 25 million (USD 2.9 million, EUR 2.4 million).

The NSC highlighted that the pandemic – particularly disruptions to the restaurant sector – had brought lower demand for the species. At the same time, poor weather and a late showing of fish led to a reduced supply.

Also last month, 6,900 MT of frozen cod worth NOK 262 million (USD 30.4 million, EUR 25.4 million) was sold to overseas markets, with the volume and value up 35 percent and 12 percent, respectively.

Meanwhile, in the pelagic trade – and building on 2020’s record – a January best of 41,800 MT of mackerel worth NOK 626 million (USD 72.7 million, EUR 60.8 million) was exported, up 57 percent and 43 percent, respectively. That export total stems from continued strong demand from markets like South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan.

Some 28,100 MT of herring worth NOK 310 million (USD 36 million, EUR 30.1 million) was also exported, with the volume and value falling by 20 percent and 8 percent compared with January last year.

In regard to shellfish, Norway shipped 881 MT of shrimp worth NOK 66 million (USD 7.7 million, EUR 6.4 million), which was a 3 percent lower volume and an 11 percent reduced value. At the same time, 295 MT of king crab valued at NOK 97 million (USD 11.3 million, EUR 9.4 million) were sold to overseas markets, up 27 percent in both volume and value.

In 2020, Norway exported a total 2.7 million MT of seafood worth NOK 105.7 billion (USD 12.3 billion, EUR 10.3 billion), making it the second-highest trade value ever achieved by the country. 

Photo courtesy of Volodymyr Rozumii/Shutterstock

Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

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