Strong start to 2020 keeps Norwegian seafood exports on course for record earnings

Published on
October 6, 2020

Norway exported NOK 8.6 billion (USD 932.4 million, EUR 792.5 million) worth of seafood products in September, a decrease of 2 percent or NOK 150 million (USD 16.3 million, EUR 13.8 million) on the corresponding 30 days of last year – but much improved on the 14 percent, or NOK 1.2 billion (USD 130.4 million, EUR 110.6 million), drop seen in the previous month.

“After a relatively large decline in export value in August, we see that the value in September is closer to 2019 figures. The species that have increased in value the most are salmon, trout, salted fish, and king crab. On the other hand, we are still seeing a decline in demand for most other products,” Norwegian Seafood Council (NSC) CEO Renate Larsen said.

For the first nine months of 2020, the Scandinavian country has shipped seafood valued at NOK 76.7 billion (USD 8.3 billion, EUR 7.1 billion), which is 1 percent, or NOK 623 million (USD 67.7 million, EUR 57.4 million), ahead of the corresponding period of last year.

Larsen attributed the growth to the strong start to the year, a weak Norwegian kroner, higher export volumes, and processing of individual products.

So far in 2020, herring, mackerel, and products made from these species account for the largest increase in value, while there has been a fall in the export value of salmon, clipfish, cod, and shrimp, Larsen said.

Norwegian Minister of Fisheries and Seafood Odd Emil Ingebrigtsen said the record high export values seen in the first nine months was “incredibly impressive.”

“Again, the industry shows that it has many legs to stand on. Norway is known for being a safe provider of healthy and safe seafood, and this has been important during this period marked by many other uncertainties,” he said.

Ingebrigtsen also said it was “gratifying” that salmon exports increased in September, keeping them on par with last year.

“One of the reasons is that consumers did not stop eating salmon when the restaurants closed but moved the consumption of salmon home to the kitchen,” he said. “Corona[virus] thus creates not only challenges but also new opportunities for Norwegian seafood. The industry must learn from and utilize this in the future.”

But while overall value for the nine months is higher than in the same period last year, NSC’s quarterly statistics show a negative development: The first-quarter earnings amounted to NOK 28.5 billion (USD 3.1 billion, EUR 2.6 billion), an increase of 11 percent, but the second-quarter was down 3 percent year-on-year to NOK 24.6 billion (USD 2.7 billion, EUR 2.3 billion), and Q3 fell 5 percent to NOK 23.6 billion (USD 2.6 billion, EUR 2.2 billion).

After a reduction in exports in July and August, last month’s salmon exports totaled 111,800 MT, some 3 percent more than in September 2019. The value of this trade increased by 2 percent to NOK 6.1 billion (USD 662.5 million, EUR 562 million), while the average price for fresh salmon was down 1 percent at NOK 49.54 (USD 5.38, EUR 4.56) per kilogram.

In the first nine months, 800,000 MT of salmon was sold by Norway to overseas markets, generating NOK 51.8 billion (USD 5.6 billion, EUR 4.8 billion). While the volume is at the same level as last year, the value was down 1 percent.

The average price for fresh whole salmon so far this year is NOK 59.82 (USD 6.50, EUR 5.51) per kilogram, almost 1 percent lower year-on-year.

NSC Analyst Paul Aandahl said that the COVID-19 pandemic led to a shift in exports to markets that further process a large proportion of salmon for resale, mainly to retailers in other markets.

“Poland has been the largest market here, increasing its share of export volume [from] 16 percent of all fresh whole salmon exports to just under 18 percent this year,” he said.

The coronavirus has, however, significantly impacted Norway’s fresh cod market, with exports for the January through September period totaling 41,800 MT valued at NOK 1.9 billion (USD 206.4 million, EUR 175 million) – down 6 percent and 2 percent, respectively. The main reason for this decline is the closure of restaurants and fresh food counters.

Also in the whitefish sector, Norway has so far exported 55,800 MT of clipfish, earning NOK 2.9 billion (USD 314.9 million, EUR 267.1 million). This represents a volume decrease of 14 percent, and an 11 percent decline in value.

In terms of Norway’s key pelagic species, the country has already exported 202,000 MT of herring worth NOK 2.5 billion (USD 271.5 million, EUR 230.3 million) this year, representing a volume increase of 1 percent and a 31 percent higher value. At the same time, its mackerel exports have increased by 27 percent in volume and 28 percent in value to 135,800 MT and NOK 2.4 billion (USD 260.5 million, EUR 221 million).

NSC Business Development Manager of Insight and Pelagic Jan Eirik Johnsen said COVID-19 had led to greater demand for cheaper seafood products with a long shelf-life, and this has increased the demand for the two products. 

Norway’s shellfish sector, meanwhile, has to-date exported 1,400 MT of king crab for NOK 463 million (USD 50.3 million, EUR 42.6 million), and 8,700 MT of prawns worth NOK 667 million (USD 72.4 million, EUR 61.4 million), with the pandemic leading to reduced demand for both.

In 2019, Norway exported a total 2.7 million MT of fisheries and aquaculture products, achieving all-time high revenue of NOK 107.3 billion (USD 11.6 billion, EUR 9.9 billion).

Photo courtesy of Volodymyr Rozumii/Shutterstock

Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

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