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Seafood Exports Thrive in 2011

It was another good year for Norwegian seafood export despite the economic crisis that rocked its major markets. Last year, the Nordic nation sold NOK 53 billion in traditional and farmed fish to 129 countries with most of the growth coming from Japan, China and Portugal, and Russia emerging as the new largest export market.

Overall Norway exported slightly less seafood in 2011 – a NOK 644 million shortfall (1.2%) – compared to 2010, according to figures from the Norwegian Seafood Council (previously known as the Norwegian Seafood Export Council).  The volume of seafood exports fell 339,000 tonnes to 2.3 million. This breaks the Norwegian seafood industry’s record of seven years of consistent growth, but is still remarkable given the small size of the drop amidst the turbulence in world markets.

“It is impressive that in 2011 we were able to nearly come tangent to the export record from 2010 at a time when several of our major markets are experiencing great economic turmoil,” said Lisbeth Berg-Hansen, Norway’s Minister of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs, during the presentation of 2011 Norwegian seafood export figures in January.

Salmon Price Normalizes
The drop is due mostly to a fall in the Norwegian seafood industry’s major export product: farmed salmon. Last year, Norway sold NOK 29.2 billion of salmon products, NOK 2 billion or 6.6% less than in 2010. The biggest single market was France, which -- like most of Norway’s salmon export markets last year -- bought more volumes of salmon, but at lower prices.

The fall is more a reflection of a “normalization” of prices, according to Terje Martinussen, Norwegian Seafood Council chief executive. Norway has seen a constant increase in salmon production for the past 40 months in the period from December 2007 to May 2011. After hitting a record price of NOK 42.73 in April, the price of salmon fell to a low of NOK 23.41, the biggest fall in price for Norwegian salmon ever registered over a half-year period.

“Salmon prices became too high and some customers fell off…such as families with children,” Martinussen said during the NSC’s annual presentation.

The biggest fall in Norwegian salmon export volumes last year was the US market, which has been partly hampered by the US’ anti-dumping duties on Norwegian salmon. Although the council welcomed US International Trade Commission’s decision in January 2012 to revoke the 20-year-old barrier, it does not consider it the start of a significant increase in the exports of whole fresh and chilled salmon from Norway to the US.

“The decision should open for Norwegian producers to respond to demand from segments in the US market willing to pay extra for whole fresh Norwegian salmon,” said Egil Ove Sundheim, NSC director of market information.

Growth in PIGS & BRIC
Norway’s drop in aquaculture exports was countered by a record NOK 22 billion in traditional fishery exports. Sales of Norwegian haddock, saithe, herring and mackerel all set new export highs, thanks to an efficient management regime and growing markets in BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and PIGS (Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain) countries.

One of the most surprising growth stories was Portugal. The economically strapped country became Norway’s tenth largest seafood export market, pushing out the US from the 2011 ranking. Portugal increased its exports from about NOK 1.8 billion to NOK 2.2 billion. The country imports mostly Norwegian clip fish, salt fish and salmon.

“This underlines the fact also that seafood is a product that is robust even during economic downturns,” said Martinussen. “We can get rid of a car, but we have to eat.”

Other large markets that bought more Norwegian seafood were Japan and China. The Japanese market experienced the bigger growth, up in value by 16%. The reason for the rise was the shortfall in Japan’s domestic mackerel production following the nuclear accident at Fukushima and the increasing popularity in Norwegian salmon as the preferred fish for sushi, especially among Japan’s younger generation.

China showed an overall increase in the amount of Norwegian seafood exports, even though there was an almost halving in Norwegian salmon exports to China following new import guidelines. Most of the increase was in other types of fish that are traditionally used for processing and re-export to Japan and others.

In total, the Asian market imported NOK 9 billion of Norwegian seafood, close to NOK 1 billion more than last year. That makes it the second most important region for Norwegian seafood after the European Union with NOK 30 billion. However, the EU market shrunk, notably in Denmark and Poland, which are more known for buying Norwegian fish for reprocessing.

Russia Topples France
The country that topped the export ranks in 2011 was Russia, which usurped France. Russia purchased NOK 5.2 billion worth of Norwegian seafood versus NOK 5.1 billion by the French. Russia was also the single market with the biggest increase in export volume last year with a 20,699 tonnes growth and the largest single market for Norwegian fjord trout, accounting for 50% of total export volumes.

The consumption of fish in Russia all but collapsed after the breakup of the Soviet Union and is only today back at the late 1980s level with consumption at around 20 kg per capita, according to Jan Eirik Johnsen, NSC director for Russia. Part of the reason for recent rise is the increasing presence of large European retail chains, such as Auchan and Metro group, in large Russian cities. Russian retailers X-5 group and Magnit are also steadily expanding in the Russian regions.

“The reason why this is important is that it bring logistical solutions capable of handling fresh fish to the regions,” said Johnsen. “The general demand for fresh fish in Russia is on the rise, and Norwegian salmon and trout have a central place in many fresh fish counters.”


Source: Norwegian Seafood Council

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