Norwegian skrei season exceeds expectations
Norway exported 5,160 metric tons (MT) of skrei codfish in the opening four months of this year, a season that has been characterized by high prices and strong demand.
Twenty years ago, the Norwegian Seafood Council (NSC) began a modest program to encourage skrei exports. Today, this premium seasonal cod has become well known across Europe, with Norwegian exports for the January through April period totaling NOK 186 million (USD 22.8 million, EUR 19.9 million), an increase of NOK 52 million (USD 6.4 million, EUR 5.6 million) year-on-year.
Sales of fresh cod, including skrei and fillets, during this period totaled NOK 1.4 billion (USD 171.8 million, EUR 149.6 million), up 17 percent or NOK 203 million (USD 24.9 million, EUR 21.7 million) year-on-year.
“This year's season has exceeded all expectations and export figures are strong,” said Jack-Robert Moller, industry manager for cod at the NSC.
With average prices of NOK 36.10 (USD 4.43, EUR 3.86) per kg, export values are NOK 5.93 (USD 0.73, EUR 0.63) per kg higher than during the same period in 2015. This year saw NOK 5.39 (USD 0.66, EUR 0.58) more for a kilo of quality-marked skrei, compared with whole fresh cod.
This year, export receipts are NOK 8.30 (USD 1.02, EUR 0.89) higher for skrei, which Moller said is “good news” for anyone who works with the product.
Much of skrei’s appeal is down to its limited availability. While it is Norwegian Arctic cod – from one of the most abundant fisheries in the world – it is a special run of this wandering ocean stock that’s renowned for its lean meat and a distinct taste.
Every year – usually between January and April – millions of large, mature fish undertake their annual journey from the Barents Sea to the spawning grounds that surround Norway’s Lofoten islands. But while the fish numbers are significant, only 10 to 15 percent of cod caught between 1 January and 30 April this year were sorted and packaged according to the skrei quality standard.
Some 71 manufacturers were licensed for quality-marked skrei this season, which represents an increase of 11 from 2015. At the same time, 44 exporters were licensed in 2016.
“Ensuring quality increases the workload for packers. Each fish must be evaluated, quality-marked and packaged according to the standard. However, the willingness of the market to pay more for quality-marked skrei cod is sufficient to cover these extra costs,” said Amund Brathen, adviser with the NSC.
In order to be classified as skrei, the cod needs to be caught fully-grown before it has spawned (approximately five years old), the skin needs to be immaculate with no scratches, bruising or injuries, and it should be packaged within 12 hours of being caught.