Reopening markets boost May’s seafood export earnings for Norway

Published on
June 8, 2021
Norwegian herring vessel

Norway’s seafood sector experienced increased sales compared to 2020 as markets begin to reopen and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The country’s seafood sector sold NOK 8.3 billion (USD 988.4 million, EUR 816.3 million) worth of products to overseas markets last month, an increase of 6 percent or NOK 484 million (USD 57.6 million, EUR 47.6 million) compared with May 2020.

Measured in value, last month was Norway’s third-best May of all time for seafood exports, Norwegian Seafood Council CEO Renate Larsen said, pointing out that salmon exports had continued a month-on-month growth trend, and that there had been “a marked increase” in exports of snow crab and king crab to the U.S. and Asia.

“Although there are still some challenges, there is reason to be cautiously optimistic on behalf of seafood exports,” she said.

For the opening five months of the year, the Scandinavian country’s seafood exports totaled NOK 44.7 billion (USD 5.3 billion, EUR 4.4 billion), some 0.3 percent higher than the same period of 2020.

"Of Norway's largest export industries, seafood has performed best. This industry creates very significant value for Norway, which means a lot for settlement and growth along the coast and in the districts. Therefore, it is gratifying to see that export values have remained high this year, despite demanding times,” Larsen said. 

Larsen said the NSC expected further demand growth, with restaurants reopening in “essential markets” like France, Italy, the United Kingdom and Portugal, with a “positive effect” already seen in some markets.

"When restaurants and fresh food counters had to close in Italy last spring, seafood exports fell sharply,” Larsen said. “The restaurants have now reopened, and Italy is now the salmon market that has increased the most in value in 2021, with an increase of NOK 300 million (USD 35.7 million, EUR 29.5 million) compared to the same period last year.”

With regards to key products, Norway last month exported 83,000 metric tons (MT) of salmon, worth NOK 5.9 billion (USD 702.6 million, EUR 580.2 million), with the volume decreasing by 1 percent and the value increasing by 6 percent compared with May 2020. Poland, France, and the U.S. continued to provide the largest salmon markets.

The growth in May’s export value is due to strong price increases, with the strengthening Norwegian kroner a contributing factor, although the country’s producers and exporters are still not allowed to benefit from the entire price increase, NSC Analyst Paul Aandahl said.

“Our calculations show that the strengthening of the krone in May has reduced the value of salmon exports by about 10 percent,” Aandahl said.

Also in the salmonid sector, the country exported 4,300 MT of trout worth NOK 276 million (USD 32.9 million, EUR 27.1 million) last month, with the volume and value falling 20 percent and 6 percent respectively. Ukraine, Belarus, and the U.S. provided the largest trout markets.

From its whitefish sector, Norway exported 4,900 MT of fresh cod in May, earning NOK 178 million (USD 21.2 million, EUR 17.5 million), up 61 percent and 25 percent respectively.

The main European transit and processing markets of Denmark, Poland, and the Netherlands provided the largest recipients of fresh Norwegian cod.

“We know that much of the fresh cod exported to our largest recipient country, Denmark, is re-exported to France. This market stands out with strong growth in domestic consumption of fresh cod compared to the same time last year and previous years," NSC Analyst Eivind Hestvik Brækkan said.

At the same time, 6,100 MT of frozen cod worth some NOK 263 million (USD 31.3 million, EUR 25.9 million) was exported, up 13 percent in volume, while the value was down 7 percent, with the United Kingdom, France, and China offering the main markets.

Norway’s pelagic sector exported 6,900 MT of herring valued at NOK 98 million (USD 11.7 million, EUR 9.6 million) last month, with the volume down 43 percent compared to May last year and the value decreasing by 38 percent. At the same time, 7,700 MT of mackerel worth NOK 129 million (USD 15.4 million, EUR 12.7 million) was sold, down 39 percent and 46 percent, respectively.

Poland, Lithuania, and the Netherlands were the largest markets for Norwegian herring in May, while Vietnam, China, and South Korea offered the main markets for the country’s mackerel.

NSC also highlighted that after two years without capelin fishing, Norway received a quota of approximately 42,000 MT in Icelandic waters. 

The entire quota was fished between 1 and 19 May, with the country exporting 1,400 MT worth NOK 28 million (USD 3.3 million, EUR 2.8 million). China, Thailand, and Taiwan were the largest markets for the fish.

With regards to the crab trade, Norway exported 117 MT of king crab in May, worth NOK 47 million (USD 5.6 million, EUR 4.6 million), representing a volume increase of 151 percent and a value rise of 193 percent.

Its snow crab exports totaled 773 MT, with a value of NOK 112 million (USD 13.3 million, EUR 11 million), with the volume and value soaring by 442 percent and 581 percent respectively.

Norway’s shrimp trade also grew last month, with 1,700 MT of the crustaceans generating revenues of NOK 79 million (USD 9.4 million, EUR 7.8 million), with the volume and value climbing 122 percent and 27 percent compared with May 2020.

Iceland, Sweden, and Finland provided the largest markets for Norwegian shrimp.

In 2020, Norway’s seafood exports totaled 2.7 million MT, worth NOK 105.7 billion (USD 12.6 billion, EUR 10.4 billion) – the second highest annual trade value in the country’s history.  

Photo courtesy of Alessandro De Maddalena/Shutterstock

Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

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