Norwegian seafood exporters facing falling demand

Published on
September 4, 2020

Norwegian seafood exports totaled NOK 7.3 billion (USD 819.8 million, EUR 694 million) for the month of August, a drop of 14 percent, or NOK 1.2 billion (USD 134.8 million, EUR 114.1 million), on the corresponding month of last year, with the Norwegian Seafood Council (NSC) reporting reduced market demand – particularly for salmon and cod.

So far this year, the Scandinavian country has shipped seafood valued at NOK 68.2 billion (USD 7.7 billion, EUR 6.5 billion), which is 1 percent, or NOK 781 million (USD 87.7 million, EUR 74.3 million), ahead of the first eight months of 2019.

August’s decline was led by falling demand for products and “less traction” from the weak Norwegian kroner exchange rate than was experienced earlier in the year, the NSC said. The salmon and cod trades saw their export values fall by NOK 764 million (USD 85.2 million, EUR 72.6 million) and NOK 236 million (USD 26.5 million, EUR 22.4 million), respectively.

“The reason for lower demand is complex, but holiday season in Europe and reduced restaurant consumption is certainly part of the explanation,” NSC Director of Market Insight and Market Access Tom-Jørgen Gangsø said.

In volume terms, last month’s salmon exports totaled 95,100 MT, some 7 percent less than in August 2019. Poland was the most important market for the trade, importing 15,885 MT of products, which accounted for just under 17 percent of the total. Denmark and France provided the next largest markets.

“During the corona[virus] pandemic, an increasing proportion of salmon has been consumed at home instead of in restaurants. This has led to a sharp increase in sales of salmon in the grocery trade. One consequence of this is that an increasing share of salmon exports now goes to Poland, which is the most important processing country for salmon,” Paul Aandahl, an NSC analyst, said.

Meanwhile, France’s consumption of fresh salmon jumped 20 percent last month, with the focus remaining on at-home eating despite the return of the restaurant industry.

The council also highlighted that China, which was the largest growth market for Norwegian seafood exports in 2019, imported 69 percent less salmon in value terms in August, and that so far this year, this particular trade has fallen in volume and value by 28 percent and 32 percent, respectively.

“The Chinese salmon market has been affected by two waves: first the eruption of COVID-19, and then in connection with the so-called incident at a food market in Beijing in June and subsequent media cases about corona[virus] and seafood,” NSC Fisheries Envoy to China Victoria Braathen said. “While the first wave affected the restaurant and hotel market, the second wave has had a broader effect on the market. We expect demand to pick up again over the autumn.”

In total, just 7,600 MT or NOK 214 million (USD 24 million, EUR 20.3 million) worth of seafood was sold to the Chinese market by Norwegian exporters in August, representing decreased in volume and value of 43 percent and 54 percent, respectively.

In the whitefish sector, Norway exported 2,100 MT of fresh cod in August, earning NOK 85 million (USD 9.5 million, EUR 8.1 million). This represented a volume increase of 42 percent, but a 15 percent decline in value. Denmark, Sweden, and Poland provided the main markets for these products.

At the same time, 3,500 MT of frozen cod with a value of NOK 142 million (USD 15.9 million, EUR 13.5 million) was exported, representing decreases in volume and value of 34 percent and 36 percent, respectively. China, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands were the largest recipients of frozen cod fron Norway.

With regards to Norway’s key pelagic species, the country exported 11,600 MT of herring worth NOK 171 million (USD 19.2 million, EUR 16.3 million) last month, representing a volume reduction of 12 percent and 13 percent higher value compared with August 2019. Some 5,400 MT of mackerel worth NOK 95 million (USD 10.7 million, EUR 9 million) were also sold, down 39 percent in volume and 40 percent in value.

Lithuania, the Netherlands, and Poland were the largest markets for herring in August, while Vietnam, Ukraine, and Sweden were the main recipients of its mackerel.

Norway’s shellfish sector, meanwhile, exported 340 MT of king crab for NOK 107 million (USD 12 million, EUR 10.2 million) and 986 MT of prawns worth NOK 78 million (USD 8.8 million, EUR 7.4 million).

In 2019, Norway exported a total 2.7 million MT of fisheries and aquaculture products, achieving a record revenue of NOK 107.3 billion (USD 12 billion, EUR 10.2 billion).

Photo courtesy of TemporalStreet/Shutterstock

Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

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