Norway’s seafood industry has grown increasingly important. In the early 1990s, the country exported slightly more than NOK 10 billion, mostly from the fisheries industry.
That number has since exploded to NOK 53.8 billion in farmed and fished seafood exports, NOK 9.1 billion more than in 2009, according to the Norwegian Seafood Export Council (NSEC). Seafood is Norway’s third most important export product after petroleum and metal and accounts for 5.7% of total Norwegian export value.
The reasons behind Norway’s seafood success have been its long maritime traditions, well-governed control through quotas and government-industry cooperation, and optimal natural conditions. The nation boasts more than 83,000 kilometres of coastline packed with over 200 different species of fish and shellfish.
The most important markets for Norwegian seafood continue to be France and Russia, which each export more than NOK 5 billion of Norwegian seafood. France is the prime buyer of Norwegian salmon, while Russia is the most important market for Norwegian trout. Russia was also the driver behind last year’s huge jump in salmon sales to Eastern Europe. Russia bought 66% more Norwegian salmon last year alone.
Surprisingly, the third largest market for Norwegian seafood is Norway. The country bought NOK 5.2 billion worth of its own seafood last year, putting it ahead of Norway’s next major export markets Poland and Denmark. The NSEC plans to put more focus on the Norwegian market in 2011 as a growth area, according to Terje E. Martinussen, NSEC managing director.
However, the market that showed the biggest growth last year was China/Hong Kong. Exports to this region increased by NOK 1 billion to NOK 3.1 billion. China is a big buyer of Norwegian salmon and trout for domestic consumption. But it is also an important market for Norwegian whitefish, which is processed and exported to Europe and the US, and for processing mackerel for export to Japan, according to Martinussen.
Norway has been selling salmon to the Chinese market since 1993, when the market was first opened by Bjørn Eng, a sales director at Seafood Farmers. Last October, the country celebrated the delivery of the 10 millionth Norwegian salmon to China at the World Expo in Shanghai.
This appetite for Norwegian seafood reflects the rapid economic growth in China, which has surpassed Japan as the world’s second largest economy. China is part of the overall growth in Norwegian seafood exports to the BRIC countries, which has grown rapidly from close to NOK 2 billion in 1995 to nearly NOK 10 billion last year.
Norway is also well represented in two of the other BRIC countries. Russia is a large importer of Norwegian trout, salmon and herring, while Brazil is a big market for salted and dried cod. The seafood council has hopes to capture more of the market in India as well.
“We deliver small quantities to India, but there are tariff barriers to that market, so Norwegian salmon would be very expensive,” said Martinussen. “We will await a situation where we have a free trade agreement with India. This (ex
port) would typically be salmon, like other new markets such as China.”
Farmed Salmon Dominates
The other trend last year was the increasing dominance of aquaculture over traditional fishing. Last year, fish farming accounted for NOK 33.4 billion or 62% of all Norwegian seafood exports. Aquaculture exports have exceeded fishing exports since 2006 and have tripled in value over the past ten years.
Norway’s biggest aquaculture export is salmon, followed by trout. The country is the world’s largest producer of farmed Atlantic salmon and last year was able to increase salmon exports 33% to NOK 31.4 billion, the most important reason behind last year’s record growth in Norwegian seafood exports.
Norway has never produced so much salmon as it did last year, at the same time as prices increased. The average price for fresh Norwegian salmon was NOK 37.5 per kilo, about NOK 7 higher than in 2009, while export volume rose 73,000 tonnes to 784,000 tonnes.
The salmon industry saw high prices throughout 2010 because of a combination of increases in global demand and reduced international competition from Chile. The NSEC expects the positive trend to continue this year.
“The belief in continued growth for 2011 is based first and foremost that salmon and trout are considered very healthy brands in the market worldwide,” said Bjørn-Erik Stabell, NSEC marketing director for salmon and trout. “At the same time, the Norwegian aquaculture industry has been very creative in steadily launching new products, which has also contributed to the increased demand.”
Norwegian seafood company Marine Harvest Group represents the largest total production in farmed salmonids, comprising about one quarter of the volume in Norway and about one third of the volume in North America and UK. In Chile, it ranks number four.
Other major Norwegian salmon producers include Lerøy Seafood, Salmar, Mainstream, Nova Sea, Nordlaks, Grieg Seafood, Sjøtroll, Alsaker Fjordbruk and Bremnes Seashore. These top ten Norwegian producers harvested a total of 548,700 out of the 843,000 tonnes of farmed Norwegian salmonids last year, according to Marine Harvest’s 2010 Salmon Farming Industry Handbook.