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Photo: Norwegian Seafood Council
Photo: Norwegian Seafood Council

Press release -

Norwegian seafood exports fall in value in May

The value of Norwegian seafood exports fell for the second month in a row. In May, Norway exported seafood worth NOK 7.8 billion. This represents a reduction of NOK 764 million, or 9 per cent, compared with May last year.

“The decline in export value is due to losing the restaurant segment in several markets. In addition, we are experiencing increased freight costs because many passenger aircraft that previously carried fresh seafood are now grounded. A further factor impacting export value is weakening purchasing power and considerable uncertainty throughout the value chain and in individual markets”, says Tom-Jørgen Gangsø, Director of Market Insight and Market Access with the Norwegian Seafood Council.

On the other hand, Gangsø indicates that many more people are buying seafood at the store and cooking it at home themselves.

“This change in consumption can make a positive contribution in the longer term, as the threshold for making seafood at home is now lower. In addition, if our most important markets open in the future, this can strengthen the demand for Norwegian seafood”, says Director of Market Insight and Market Access at the Norwegian Seafood Council, Tom-Jørgen Gangsø.

Declines for salmon, clipfish and shellfish in May

In April, Norway experienced a fall in export value for seafood for the first time in 18 months. In May this decline continues. Gangsø points to three factors when explaining the negative trend over the past two months:

  • Exports of fresh whole salmon are declining
  • Clipfish markets are experiencing challenging conditions
  • Lower volumes of prawns and king crab are being exported

“The negative effects of the measures against the corona virus appear to be gradually reducing for salmon exports. At the same time, we see significant challenges in our most important markets for conventional cod products and for shellfish exports, especially in recent months”, says Tom-Jørgen Gangsø, Director of Market Insight and Market Access.

Value increases so far in 2020

Although there was a fall in value in April and May, seafood exports in January, February and March contributed to an overall growth in export value in 2020. So far this year, seafood exports have been worth NOK 44.6 billion. This is an increase in value of NOK 1.5 billion, or 3 per cent, compared to the same period last year.

Broadly speaking, herring and mackerel account for 2/3 of the value increase so far this year, while salmon and trout account for 1/3 of the value increase.

“There has been a strong demand for pelagic products in 2020. For herring, which is often marketed as products with a long shelf life, we see an increase in grocery sales in important markets such as Germany. For mackerel, the value increase is due to larger quotas, increased landings in Norway by foreign vessels and good demand in core markets such as Japan and South Korea. Although there has been a decline in salmon and trout exports in the last two months, the year started off strongly. That is the reason for the growth in value so far in 2020”, says Director of Market Insight and Market Access at the Norwegian Seafood Council, Tom-Jørgen Gangsø.

Uptick for Norwegian salmon in France

In May, 85,000 tonnes of salmon were exported to a value of NOK 5.7 billion. This is a 5 per cent reduction in volume, while export value fell by NOK 312 million, or 5 per cent, compared to May last year. The average price for fresh whole salmon in May was NOK 60.65 per kg, compared to NOK 62.13 per kg in May last year. Poland, France and Denmark were the largest markets for Norwegian salmon in May.

So far this year, 419,000 tonnes of salmon have been exported, worth NOK 29.3 billion. The volume is at the same level as last year, while export value has increased by NOK 476 million, or 2 per cent.

“The 14 per cent fall in value that we experienced for salmon exports in April was reduced to 5 per cent in May. We saw, among other things, strong growth in exports to France and to the processing markets of Poland and Denmark, which primarily supply processed salmon to the German market”, says seafood analyst Paul T. Aandahl of the Norwegian Seafood Council.

In March and April, exports of Norwegian salmon to France declined by 11 and 12 per cent respectively. In May, this negative trend turned, and export volume increased by 4 per cent, to 8,976 tonnes.

“At the beginning of the year, salmon exports to France were at a higher level than in the same period last year. In March, the corona crisis came, and we experienced a fall in exports both in March and April. After freedom of movement was restored on May 11, the export volumes to France have increased. We can expect a further increase, as restaurants throughout France could reopen from June 2. In the Paris region, which is a populous area, there are currently only open-air restaurants that are open”, says the Norwegian Seafood Council's fisheries envoy to France, Trine Horne.


Lower demand for Norwegian trout

In May, 5,400 tonnes of trout were exported with a value of NOK 295 million. Volume increased by 20 per cent, while export value fell by NOK 8 million, or 3 per cent, compared with May last year.

So far this year, 25,200 tonnes of trout have been exported with a value of NOK 1.5 billion. This is an increase in volume of 31 per cent, while the value increased by NOK 156 million, or 12 per cent. Ukraine, the United States and Japan were our largest markets for trout exports in May.

Growth in value for frozen cod

4,400 tonnes of fresh cod were exported with a value of NOK 171 million. This represents an increase in volume of 10 per cent, while export value has increased by NOK 3 million, or 2 per cent, compared to May last year.

So far this year, 34,600 tonnes of fresh cod have been exported, worth NOK 1.6 billion. Export volume has declined by 8 per cent, while value fell by NOK 29 million, or 2 per cent. Denmark, Poland and Sweden were the largest markets for Norwegian fresh cod in May.

In May, 5,400 tonnes of frozen cod were exported to a value of NOK 259 million. There is an increase in volume of 4 per cent, while the value increased by NOK 35 million, or 16 per cent.

So far this year, 34,000 tonnes of frozen cod have been exported to a value of NOK 1.6 billion. There is a 6 per cent reduction in volume, while the value increased by NOK 85 million, or 6 per cent. China, the United Kingdom and France were the largest recipients of frozen cod in May.


France embraces frozen fillet

“Both market insight and our panel data show that frozen and prepared products in particular have seen growth during the corona crisis. The reason for this is a combination of closed fresh fish counters in supermarkets and the need to buy products that can be stored. We also see this from export statistics, where frozen fillet has grown its share in the last two months”, says Ingrid Kristine Pettersen, Seafood Analyst with the Norwegian Seafood Council.

In May, France was one of the largest markets for frozen cod. In the period from week 9 to 16, home consumption of prepared cod products increased by 15 per cent in France, compared with the corresponding period in 2019.

“France is traditionally a fresh seafood market, but an unavailability of fresh produce led to a decline in fresh fillets of cod in the grocery segment. At the same time, we are seeing significant growth for frozen fillets and prepared products. As the restaurants start to open again, the prospects for fresh whitefish products look bright”, says Trine Horne, fisheries envoy with the Norwegian Seafood Council.

Significant challenges for clipfish

4,500 tonnes of clipfish worth NOK 204 million were exported in May. Export volume fell by 30 per cent, while value fell by NOK 163 million, or 44 per cent, compared to May last year.

So far this year, 32,500 tonnes of clipfish have been exported with a value of NOK 1.7 billion. This represents a 10 per cent reduction in volume, while export value remains at the same level as last year. Portugal, the Dominican Republic and Congo-Brazzaville were our most important markets in May.

“Lower demand in both the Portuguese and Brazilian markets helps explain the decline for clipfish and saltfish in May. At the same time, there has been volume growth throughout May for saithe clipfish due to stable demand in the Caribbean and West Africa. Brazil has traditionally taken around 20 percent of the clipfish exports in the last half of the year, but for now prospects are more uncertain”, says Ingrid Kristine Pettersen, Seafood Analyst with the Norwegian Seafood Council.

Political turmoil is creating uncertainty

Brazil is a very important clipfish market for Norway. In May, Norway exported saithe clipfish worth NOK 1.7 million. In comparison, in May 2019, clipfish exports to Brazil amounted to NOK 26 million.

“Brazil is now experiencing three crises simultaneously; a social, economic and political crisis that is expected to affect the economy and demand for a long time to come. The corona crisis puts the health system under continuing pressure, and people are staying home in fear of getting sick. Falling oil prices and weakening of the Brazilian real against the US dollar make imported goods 40 per cent more expensive, including clipfish. Political turmoil has also created public anxiety and uncertainty about the fundamentals of Brazil's economy”, says Øystein Valanes, fisheries envoy for the Norwegian Seafood Council to Brazil.

Large fall for salt fish exports

In May, 2,700 tonnes of salt fish were exported with a value of NOK 158 million. Export volume fell by 25 per cent, while export value fell by NOK 53 million, or 25 per cent, compared to May last year.

So far this year, 14,400 tonnes of salted fish have been exported to the value of NOK 905 million. There is an increase in volume of 3 per cent, while the value increased by NOK 107 million, or 13 per cent. Portugal, Spain and Canada were our most important export markets in May.

Big gains for herring and mackerel

10,800 tonnes of herring were exported with a value of NOK 151 million in May. There is a 6 per cent reduction in volume, while the value increased by NOK 25 million, or 20 per cent.
So far this year, 134,000 tonnes of herring have been exported with a value of NOK 1.5 billion. There has been an increase in volume of 5 per cent, while export value has increased by NOK 436 million, or 40 per cent. Poland, Belarus and Egypt were the main markets for herring exports in May. In May, 12,800 tonnes of mackerel were exported, worth NOK 239 million. Volume increased by 23 per cent, while value increased by NOK 57 million, or 31 per cent.

So far this year, 108,000 tonnes of mackerel have been exported with a value of NOK 1.9 billion. This is an increase in volume of 50 per cent, while the value increased by NOK 634 million, or 52 per cent. South Korea, Japan and China were the largest export destinations for mackerel in May.


Good demand throughout the year

May is traditionally low season for the export of herring and mackerel. Exports of herring normally increase somewhat in June, but the largest spikes in demand come in the fall.

“There has been good demand for herring and mackerel throughout the year. Among other things, we have seen an increase in the consumption of herring in oil products in Poland and Germany. Measured in US dollars, the average export price of herring so far this year is 17 per cent higher than in the same period last year, while it is 34 per cent higher when measured in Norwegian kroner. In terms of mackerel, the average export price so far this year is 9 per cent lower than in the same period last year, while it is 1 per cent higher measured in Norwegian kroner”, says Frank Isaksen, Chief Analyst with the Norwegian Seafood Council.


Lower prawn volume

745 tonnes of prawn were exported with a value of NOK 62 million in May. This is a 30 per cent reduction in volume, while export value fell by NOK 28 million, or 31 per cent, from May last year.

So far this year, 4,500 tonnes of prawn have been exported to a value of NOK 368 million. This is a 28 per cent reduction in volume, while the value fell by NOK 83 million, or 18 per cent. Sweden, the Netherlands and Finland were the largest export markets in May.

“The export volume of prawn so far this year is lower than in the same period last year, but is stiill higher than the export volume in the corresponding period in 2018. The average export price of prawn so far this year measured in euros is 2 per cent lower than in the same period last year. Measured in Norwegian kroner, the price is 13 percent higher”, says Frank Isaksen, Chief Analyst with the Norwegian Seafood Council.

Prawn export find success in China

In a demanding export market for Norwegian seafood, there is one country that stands out positively. The export value of shrimp to China in May is the largest ever measured. There has been a notable increase in frozen and peeled shrimp in particular.

“The Chinese are very fond of shrimp. A different spring given increased online shopping and greater opportunities for consumers to explore seafood products for home cooking. As daily life is largely back, shrimp restaurant consumption has also picked up”, says Victoria Braathen, fisheries envoy to China for the Norwegian Seafood Council.

This spring, together with the industry, the Norwegian Seafood Council has launched an investment program to support exporters to the Chinese market for Norwegian shellfish and shrimp.

“Demand for cold water shrimp has increased in China in recent years. The development we are seeing now provides a very good starting point for further market work for Norwegian shrimp in China”, says Victoria Braathen.


Major fall in value for Norwegian king crab

46 tonnes of king crab were exported to a value of NOK 16 million. This is a 60 per cent reduction in volume, while the value fell by NOK 23 million, or 59 per cent, from May last year.

So far this year, 503 tonnes of king crab have been exported with a value of NOK 171 million. This is a 30 per cent reduction in volume, while export value fell by NOK 52 million, or 23 per cent. South Korea, Hong Kong and Vietnam were the largest markets for Norwegian king crab in May.

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The Norwegian Seafood Council works with the Norwegian fisheries and aquaculture industries to develop markets for Norwegian seafood through local market intelligence, market development and reputational risk management. The Seafood Council is headquartered in Tromsø and maintains local representatives in twelve of Norway's most important international markets. The Norwegian seafood industry finances the activities of the Norwegian Seafood Council via a tariff on all Norwegian seafood exports.

The Norwegian Seafood Council is a public company owned by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries.

Press contacts

Ingrid Kristine Pettersen

Ingrid Kristine Pettersen

Market analyst Whitefish and conventional products
Paul T. Aandahl

Paul T. Aandahl

Seafood Analyst +47 975 04 124