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Seafood economy:best years ever

Norway is the world’s second largest seafood exporter, thanks to its abundant marine resources, long coastlines and numerous fjords. Recent figures show the industry is still going strong. For the sixth year in a row, the country has set new records for total seafood exports, which make up about 4.5% of the country’s total export value.

 According to the Norwegian Seafood Export Council (NSEC), the Nordic fishing nation last year exported NOK 44.7 billion in seafood, NOK 6 billion more than in 2008. The volume of seafood exports in 2009 rose 268,000 tonnes to 2.6 million, representing some 35 million meals of Norwegian seafood served every day versus 27 million in 2008.

There are many reasons behind the growth, but none more important than Norwegian salmon. The country saw salmon exports rise 32% to NOK 23.7 billion last year.

“The demand for Norwegian salmon in particular has contributed significantly to the total value of exports,” said Terje E. Martinussen, NSEC Managing Director. “For many years, the Norwegian salmon industry has strengthened its market position through a strong focus on market development, product development and efficient production aimed at a global customer mass.”

More to the US
Norwegian salmon is exported to 96 countries. Norway’s biggest market is France, which imported NOK 3.9 billion. However, the market experiencing the strongest growth is the US. Last year, Norwegian salmon exports to the US trebled to NOK 1 billion as a result of reduced supplies from Chile.

Salmon production in Chile has been hit hard in recent years by the infectious salmon anaemia (ISA) virus. An analysis by Kontali for Marine Harvest, the world’s largest Atlantic salmon producer, showed industry supply of Atlantic salmon from Chile had fallen from 363,000 HOG (head on gutted) tonnes in 2008 to 215,000, and could fall up to a further 70% this year. Norway, however, is expected to supply more salmon this year.

“Norway has never produced more salmon than at present and at the same time the price is also going up,” said Paul Aandahl, NSEC Market Analyst. “Despite the economic crisis and growing levels of unemployment in many of our most important markets, demand for Norwegian salmon and Norwegian fjord trout is growing.”

Exports of Norwegian fjord trout increased by NOK 120 million to a record NOK 1.9 billion. This was the result of higher prices for fresh whole Norwegian trout, rather than higher volume. Russia is the most important market, with a 57% share of exports.

Record Pelagic Year
It was also a record year for exports of pelagic fish for human consumption. The country exported 1.185 million tonnes of herring, mackerel, capelin, horse mackerel, sardines and other types of pelagic fish totalling NOK 7.2 billion. Russia was the biggest consumers of Norwegian herring, followed by the Ukraine, Nigeria and Germany. Russia is also the biggest market for capelin, a fluctuating fish stock that has been gone for some years. Japan is the most important market for mackerel.

“The record high quota for Norwegian spring spawning herring, combined with the commercial quota for capelin last year for the first time since 2003, has made these record exports possible,” said Krisian Lien, NSEC Senior Analyst.

The NSEC has partially funded joint market campaigns since 2000 to help exporters promote Norwegian seafood such as pelagic fish. The NSEC provides up to 50% of costs for marketing activities that build knowledge and preference for Norway as a quality supplier of seafood and use the label “NORGE- Norwegian Seafood.” The joint campaigns have also been executed successfully for salmon, pelagic, cod, prawn and cured products and in countries such as Norway, Sweden, Denmark, USA, Canada, Germany, France, Poland, the UK, Russia, Ukraine, Greece, Turkey, Malaysia, Japan and South Korea.

Pelagic fish make up the largest main group of fish by landed catch volume in Norway, followed by cod. But cod fishing is the most important of fisheries by landed value of catch. According to Statistics Norway, Norwegian vessels delivered 2.4 million tonnes of fish, crustaceans and molluscs and NOK 12.2 billion in landed catch value in 2008.


Fishing vessels arrving at Røst at the end of a fishing day.



Aquaculture Still Top
Fish farming still dominates Norway’s seafood exports over live catch. Last year, Norway exported NOK 26 billion worth in farmed seafood, representing 58% of total seafood exports. The majority of Norway’s farmed fish exports were salmon, followed by trout.

It is only in recent years that aquaculture has been able to outpace the volume of live catch. The country’s fish farming industry dates back to the 1960s, but only began to take off in the 1980s when large-scale salmon production became truly successfully. Today, Norway is the largest producer of farmed Atlantic salmon.

Marine Harvest said it expects to harvest 292,000 tonnes in 2010, 206,000 of which should come from Norway. However, it sees global industry supply of Atlantic salmon falling by 5-9%, mostly due to decreases in Chile. The company harvests salmon mainly in Norway, but also Chile, Canada, and Scotland.

“I expect continued solid demand for seafood,” said Åse Aulie Michelet, Marine Harvest Chief Executive, at the presentation of the company’s fourth quarter 2009 results. “Together with limited supply this indicates a strong market for salmon also in 2010.”

In addition to salmon, Norway farms rainbow trout, cod, halibut, char, turbot and shellfish. The country increased farmed cod exports by 26% to NOK 275.5 million last year, according the NSEC. The biggest market for Norwegian cod filets is France, which received more than 40% of the total export volume of 1,112 tonnes. Denmark and Sweden were the biggest markets for whole farmed Norwegian cod, each with a 30% share of the total exports of 8,366 tonnes.

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