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Photo: Norwegian Seafood Council
Photo: Norwegian Seafood Council

Press release -

Record high Norwegian seafood exports in 2021

The last 12 months have been the best year ever for Norwegian seafood exports. Norway exported 3.1 million tonnes of seafood worth NOK 120.8 billion in 2021. This sets a record in both volume and value and represents the equivalent of 42 million seafood meals every single day of the year.

"2021 was another exciting export year for Norwegian seafood. We are in the very favourable position of having products in high demand the world over - even in times of crisis. This has resulted in a growth in demand, record export volumes and a total export value that Norway has never experienced before. This is impressive and shows that Norwegian seafood is one of Norway's key industries for the future”, says Renate Larsen, CEO of the Norwegian Seafood Council.

Many records broken in 2021
Seafood exports in 2021 set many records. Here are some of them:

  • For the first time, the total export volume exceeded 3 million tonnes.
  • The increase in value was as much as NOK 15.1 billion, or 14.3 per cent, compared with 2020.
  • The previous record in export value from 2019 of NOK 107.2 billion was broken by NOK 13.6 billion, or 12.7 per cent.
  • In December, seafood worth NOK 12 billion was exported. This is a new record for this month.
  • Solid export records were also set for, amongst others, salmon, king crab, snow crab and mackerel.

Fantastic results
”Despite a challenging year, the seafood industry has delivered fantastic results. The government has very high ambitions for the seafood industry. Together with all the skilled professionals in the seafood industry, we will continue to work for further growth in the export of climate-friendly food, more activity along the coast and the setting of further impressive new records”, says Norwegian Minister of Fisheries and Marine Affairs Bjørnar Skjæran.

Stable operating frameworks and good market access
Despite the fact that 2021 was undeniably a record year on many fronts, the Norwegian Seafood Council's CEO Renate Larsen emphasizes that the entire value chain has, to varying degrees, been able to take part in this remarkable Norwegian export success story.

“We must be careful when interpreting "export growth" as "increased profitability" for everyone. Challenges with market access and increased costs related to operations, purchasing and distribution led to lower margins in parts of the industry last year. To be able to develop, invest and continue to be a leading seafood nation, the industry needs stable operating frameworks and good market access”, says Renate Larsen.

Seafood represents the times we live in
Seafood is one of Norway's largest export sectors and one that has seen the greatest growth. In 10 years, the sector´s value has more than doubled, from NOK 47.7 billion in 2012 to NOK 120.8 billion in 2021.

“The corona pandemic also impacted exports in 2021 and caused changes in everything from trading patterns to transport and flow of goods. The fact that there has still been export records in both volume and value should be credited to the entire Norwegian seafood industry. Every single day the industry delivers products that are aligned with the times we live in. Norwegian seafood enjoys a strong global position, a good reputation and scores high on important consumer drivers such as sustainability, taste, accessibility, health and wellness”, says Renate Larsen.

These are the leading export species
This is an overview of seafood exports in 2021, broken down by the export value of the largest species and compared with the previous year:

  • Salmon NOK 81.4 billion (+ 16%)
  • Cod NOK 9.8 billion (+ 2%)
  • Mackerel NOK 5.9 billion (+ 18%)
  • Herring 4.2 billion kroner (+11%)
  • Trout NOK 4 billion (+ 5%)
  • Saithe 2.5 billion kroner (+7%)

Strengthened Norwegian krone

“In 2021, Norwegian seafood experienced a significant uplift in demand, which we see in the form of increased export volumes and higher prices in local currency for a number of species and products. On the other hand, the Norwegian krone has strengthened in 2021 compared with 2020. Had it not been for this currency strengthening, the export value could actually have been over NOK 6 billion higher”, says Renate Larsen.

Quarterly developments in 2021

The overview of export development in 2021 shows that second half-yearly growth was strongest compared with the previous year:

  • 1st quarter: NOK 27.8 billion (-3%)
  • 2nd quarter: NOK 26 billion (+ 5%)
  • 3rd quarter: NOK 31 billion (+31%)
  • 4th quarter: NOK 36.2 billion (+ 25%)

A strong year for aquaculture

The ratio between aquaculture and fisheries has changed little since 2020. The export value derived from aquaculture is 71 per cent, while the proportion by volume is 44 per cent.

  • In 2021, Norway exported 1.4 million tonnes of fish from aquaculture.
  • The export value was NOK 85.7 billion.
  • Export volume increased by 11 per cent compared with the previous year.
  • Export value increased by NOK 15.1 billion, or 16 per cent, compared with 2020.

Growth for fisheries

Fisheries make up 29 per cent of the total seafood exports measured in value, while in volume they make up 56 per cent.

  • For fisheries, the export volume was 1.7 million tonnes.
  • The value was NOK 35.1 billion.
  • 2021 saw an increase of 13.8 per cent in volume.
  • The value increased by NOK 3.5 billion, or 11 per cent, compared with 2020.

Highest export value for salmon

Salmon exports were in a class of their own amongst Norwegian seafood exports in 2021. It was a very strong year, with records set in both volume and value.

  • Exports totalled 1.3 million tonnes.
  • Export value amounted to NOK 81.4 billion.
  • Export volume increased by 13 per cent compared to 2020.
  • Export value increased by NOK 11.3 billion, or 16 per cent, compared with 2020.

“Despite the corona pandemic still making its mark on the markets, we had another record year for Norwegian salmon exports. Gradual reopening increased social contact and open restaurants lifted demand in 2021. Salmon has obviously adapted to the new ways of buying food, such as home delivery and takeaway”, says Paul T. Aandahl, Seafood Analyst with the Norwegian Seafood Council.

Packaged fresh products proving popular

High household consumption is still contributing to higher demand for processed products than before the pandemic almost two years ago.

“In 2020 and 2021, freshly packaged products have seen the biggest retail increases in both Europe and the USA. During this period, salmon has become cheaper for consumers and more competitive with other protein sources such as meat and other seafood”, says Paul T. Aandahl.

Increased home consumption in Italy

Our largest growth market last year was the Netherlands, where a lot of salmon is processed for onward export. The second largest growth market was Italy.

“Home consumption in Italy has increased in line with the supply of novel products, and Norwegian salmon is gaining increasing focus in the grocery trade”, says Gunvar L. Wie, the Norwegian Seafood Council's envoy to Italy.

Significant growth in France

The same trend is also seen in France. In 2021, this was Norway's third-largest growth market measured in value and is our second-largest total market for salmon.

“Last year we saw a fantastic development in exports to France, with an increase of 15 per cent in value. Although the restaurants opened in the summer, there was still a high rate of home consumption. Norwegian salmon has strengthened its position in France, and French consumers want to eat even more healthy, tasty and sustainable Norwegian salmon”, says Trine Horne, the Norwegian Seafood Council's envoy to France.

A record year for trout exports

Trout has been the other major export species.

  • In 2021, 73,300 tonnes of trout were exported.
  • Export value was NOK 4 billion.
  • Export volume fell by 12 per cent.
  • The value of trout exports increased by NOK 181 million, or 5 per cent, from 2020.

Trout exports achieved a record high in export value in 2021. The previous export record was in 2016, with NOK 3.9 billion.

“Trout production was reduced in 2021, which resulted in a reduction in exported volume. The price for fresh whole trout increased relatively more than the price for fresh whole salmon in 2021. While the price for fresh whole salmon increased by 4 per cent to NOK 58.70 per kg, the trout price increased by 19 per cent to NOK 59.20 per kg”, says Paul T. Aandahl seafood analyst in the Norwegian Seafood Council.

Belarus was both the largest export market and the market with the largest growth in 2021. The market increased from NOK 302 million to NOK 702 million.

Growth for cod

Cod is the largest species in the catching sector, measured in value.

  • · Exports of cod in 2021 were 199,000 tonnes
  • · Export value was NOK 9.8 billion.
  • · Export volume increased by 15 per cent from 2020.
  • · Export value increased by NOK 178 million, or 2 per cent, compared with 2020.

High export volumes in a market still impacted by the pandemic resulted in low prices during the cod season last year.

Overall, for 2021, the export price for fresh whole cod was 16 per cent lower than in 2020, with volume growth of 33 per cent. Frozen whole cod had a price decrease of 8 per cent and volume growth of 12 per cent.

Three reasons for the price drop

The price decline is largely a result of the following:

  • Strong volume growth
  • Reduced demand from the hotel, restaurant, and canteen segment due to shutdowns during the corona pandemic
  • A stronger Norwegian krone

Even with lower prices, volume growth contributed to a record high export value for both fresh and frozen cod.

Another record for frozen cod

“Frozen cod set a new record for the third year in a row, with an export value of NOK 3.3 billion. This is NOK 79 million higher than the year before. For fresh cod, the export value ended at 2.4 billion, which is NOK 27 million higher than in the previous record year 2018”, says Eivind Hestvik Brækkan.

The flow of goods for frozen whole cod continues to shift towards more exports to Europe and a decline to Asia. Last year, 64 per cent of exports of frozen whole cod went to Europe. This is an increase from 59 per cent in 2020 and 48 per cent in 2019.

“Higher transport costs to and from Asia and corona-related import restrictions for frozen seafood in China have contributed to this shift”, says Eivind Hestvik Brækkan.

French consumers fall for fresh cod

In many markets, domestic consumption of frozen cod has declined somewhat after the sharp increase at the beginning of the corona pandemic in 2020. For fresh cod, France has excelled with significant growth in domestic consumption.

“French people are concerned about eating healthily and good, and it is gratifying to see that they continue to eat more cod at home even after the restaurants opened last summer”, says Trine Horne, the Norwegian Seafood Council's envoy to France.

Strong end to 2021

“The end of the year gives reason for optimism for 2022. Despite a stronger krone, we saw in the last three months of the year a higher export price of both fresh and frozen whole cod than the same months in 2020. Higher prices at the same time as volume growth tells us that 2021 ended with significantly higher demand than the year before”, says Eivind Hestvik Brækkan.

Increased value for saithe and haddock

The second-largest whitefish species scored well in 2021, with exports amounting to 97,800 tonnes, while export value was NOK 2.5 billion. The volume fell by 2 per cent, while the value increased by NOK 173 million, or 7 per cent, from 2020.

Haddock was our third most important species in whitefish. Exports of haddock in 2021 were 61,000 tonnes, while the export value was NOK 1.6 billion. The volume increased by 4 per cent, while the value increased by NOK 23 million, or 1 per cent, from 2020.

A record for mackerel

Mackerel was the second largest species in the fishing industry.

  • The export volume of mackerel in 2021 ended at 389,000 tonnes.
  • The export value ended on a new record with NOK 5.9 billion.
  • Export volume increased by 30 per cent from 2020.
  • Export value increased by NOK 920 million, or 18 per cent, compared with 2020.

“2021 was a special year for mackerel. The mackerel agreement with the EU and the Faroe Islands ended at the end of 2020, and there was neither a new mackerel agreement nor an agreement with the United Kingdom, which after Brexit became a new independent coastal state”, says Jan Eirik Johnsen, Manager for Pelagic Species with the Norwegian Seafood Council.

Early start of the season

As a result, Norway benefited from a record-high mackerel quota of 305,000 tonnes and the mackerel had to be caught in Norwegian waters instead of in British waters.

“This is where much of the autumn mackerel have been caught in recent years. This led to the mackerel season being started already in August instead of at the end of September and that it lasted 12 weeks instead of 6-8 weeks”, says Jan Eirik Johnsen.

Great effort from producers

The Norwegian fleet managed to take around 90 per cent of the quota.

“The production and packaging sector made a great effort to handle record quantities during certain periods and at the same time had to deal with the challenges of lack of packaging and demanding transport conditions to the markets. These challenges were overcome, and in the markets, there was a solid demand for the Norwegian mackerel in 2021”, says Jan Eirik Johnsen.

The corona pandemic has increased the demand for good, affordable and long-lasting seafood products. This has been positive for mackerel.

Strong in Japan and South Korea

“Japan and South Korea are the two largest consumer markets for Norwegian mackerel. In both countries, mackerel is very strong in the domestic consumption of fish, and through the pandemic, mackerel has become even more in demand. In addition, own catches of mackerel have fallen in both Japan and South Korea, which helped to increase the demand for Norwegian mackerel even more”, says Johan Kvalheim, the Norwegian Seafood Council's envoy to Japan and South Korea.

Increased prices at the end of the season

Large supplies of mackerel sent prices down at the beginning of the season compared to 2020.

“Towards the end of the season, however, demand in the Asian markets was so strong that prices increased significantly, and in several markets the average price broke through NOK 20 per kg”, says Jan Eirik Johnsen.

Strong year for herring exports

Herring experienced strong value growth last year.

  • 350,000 tonnes of herring were exported in 2021.
  • The value was NOK 4.2 billion.
  • Export volume increased by 10 per cent from 2020.
  • Export value increased by NOK 419 million, or 11 per cent, compared with 2020.

“2021 was a very strong year for herring exports. There was no new record, but it was not far off. Both in 2021 and in 2011, herring was exported for NOK 4.2 billion. If we look at the whole number, it was only NOK 28 million short of setting a new record”, says Jan Eirik Johnsen, Manager for Pelagic Species with the Norwegian Seafood Council.

Strong year for herring roe

In 2020, herring roe was a really successful product with an export value of almost NOK 430 million. 2021 was also a strong year.

“Limited supply of roe resulted in lower volumes, but strong demand lifted prices even higher, to an average of more than NOK 86 per kg. This yielded an export value of almost NOK 340 million”, says Jan Eirik Johnsen.

Record high capelin prices

In recent years, there has been no capelin quota, but last year Norway traded almost 42,000 tonnes of capelin with Iceland. After a long absence in the markets, demand and prices skyrocketed.

“Capelin received an average price of almost NOK 17 per kg, while the highest paying consumer markets paid over NOK 20 per kg. It gave an export value of NOK 660 million”, says Jan Eirik Johnsen, Manager for Pelagic Species in the Norwegian Seafood Council.

The pelagic category sets records

Although 2021 was challenging for the pelagic industry, it ended up being a record year. With a new record for mackerel, a near-record for herring and a solid contribution from capelin, there was a new solid export record for pelagic species of NOK 11.1 billion. This is 22 per cent higher than the previous record set in 2020, which was NOK 9.1 billion.

Exciting growth in shellfish exports

For the first time in history, shellfish exports have exceeded NOK 3 billion, an increase of 38 per cent compared with 2020. The previous record was set in 2019 of NOK 2.4 billion, which also beat the previous year by a good margin.

“The reason for the growth is increased quotas, good fishing and improved logistics, combined with consumers continuing to support Norwegian shellfish in stores, online or as home delivery. At the same time, the top restaurants have Norwegian shellfish on the menu even after they have reopened”, says Josefine Voraa, Manager for Shellfish with the Norwegian Seafood Council.

Strong volume growth for prawn

  • Exports of prawn in 2021 were 14,300 tonnes.
  • The export value was NOK 921 million.
  • Export volume increased by 20 per cent from 2020.
  • Export value increased by NOK 15 million, or 2 per cent, compared with 2020.

“In many ways, it has been a challenging year for the Norwegian prawn category with raw material prices that are not balanced with the market price, strengthened Norwegian krone as well as increased costs of transport and packaging, says Josefine Voraa, Manager for Shellfish with the Norwegian Seafood Council.

Higher raw material prices led to increased landings of cold-water prawn from the Barents Sea.

“This led to strong volume growth in prawn exports and increased exports of industrial prawn to Iceland. Last year, more than 3,000 tonnes of frozen raw prawns were exported to Iceland”, says Josefine Voraa.

Strong growth for exports to the UK

Domestic consumption of prawn has increased during the pandemic, but the decline in the hotel, restaurant and catering sector has led to the export price of frozen peeled prawn, our largest prawn product, being below the levels from 2019 and 2020.

“In March, export prices reached their lowest point, but since then demand and export prices have increased in line with reopening in Europe. The United Kingdom is a good example of a prawn market that went from being a market with strong uncertainty related to Brexit and closure to becoming the consumer market with the highest growth last year. UK export volume increased by 57 per cent compared to 2020”, says Josefine Voraa.

The best year ever for king crab

  • The export of king crab in 2021 was 2,300 tonnes.
  • Export value amounted to NOK 999 million.
  • The export volume increased by 12 per cent from 2020.
  • The export value increased by NOK 332 million, or 50 per cent, compared with 2020.

King crab is our largest species of shellfish.

“The abolition of the quota for red king crab in Alaska combined with increased demand in Asia, the USA and Europe has led to the demand for king crab being greater than the supply, and this has led to adventurous prices globally. The export price for both live and frozen king crab has increased from NOK 327 per kg in January to NOK 640 per kg in December”, says Josefine Voraa, Manager for Shellfish with the Norwegian Seafood Council.

Increased online sales

During the corona pandemic, several people reduced some of their larger categories of spending and at the same time had a desire to treat themselves to something extra good.

“Among other things, this has meant that the king crab has become a part of the retail trade in several markets in addition to an increase in online sales and home delivery”, says Josefine Voraa.

A growing middle class

Both last year and so far this year, there has been the greatest growth in exports of live king crab to the Asian markets, especially in the first half of the year.

“Much of the reason for this is that several of the markets have been able to keep the restaurants open. In addition, there is a growing middle class that demands premium products such as king crab. The reopening of the restaurant sector in Europe and North America from the summer onwards, therefore, led to increased demand for both live and frozen king crab for all markets”, says Josefine Voraa.

Good development for snow crab

Snow crabs are our third largest species of shellfish.

  • Exports of snow crab in 2021 totalled 4,400 tonnes.
  • Export value was NOK 810 million.
  • Export volume increased by 78 per cent from 2020.
  • Export value increased by NOK 449 million, or 124 per cent, compared with 2020.

“2021 was the year where the Norwegian snow crab really broke through with increased quotas, good fishing and strong demand in the main markets USA and Japan. When stocks in the US ran out of snow crab in the spring, it drove up both demand and global prices, says Josefine Voraa, Manager for Shellfish with the Norwegian Seafood Council.

Strong export growth to the United States

Already by July, the Norwegian quota was fished, and the snow crab adventure had to be put on pause until 1 January this year.

“In 2021, we had a strong increase in the export of king crab and snow crab from Norway to the USA. For both species, direct exports totalled 2,200 tonnes, worth NOK 570 million. This is an increase in the volume of 1,200 tonnes and in value of NOK 350 million”, says Josefine Voraa.

Crabs receive more US retail promotion

The development has led to the USA now being the largest market for frozen king crab from Norway.

“As consumption had to be refocused from restaurants to households during the corona pandemic, so the grocery chains in the USA began to promote king crab and snow crab to a greater extent”, says Anne-Kristine Øen, the Norwegian Seafood Council's envoy to the USA.

Four important contributing factors

She points to four important contributions to increased prices for frozen king crab and snow crab in the US market.

  • Increased demand
  • Lower quotas in Alaska
  • No stock left in warehouses
  • Challenges in the supply chain

Growth for clipfish

  • Exports of clipfish in 2021 were 91,100 tonnes.
  • Export value was NOK 4.5 billion.
  • Export volume increased by 9 per cent from 2020.
  • Export value increased by NOK 215 million, or 5 per cent, compared with 2020.

For cod clipfish, 2021 yielded export volume growth of 7 per cent, and export value remained at the same level as in 2020. Export prices, therefore, were down by 7 per cent in 2021.

“Portugal, with its more than 10 million inhabitants, is once again consolidating its position as the world's biggest consumers of cod per capita. Last year, as much as 75 per cent of the export volume of cod clipfish went to Portugal”, says Eivind Hestvik Brækkan, Seafood Analyst with the Norwegian Seafood Council.

Traction in Portugal

Across the whole cod category, Portugal is by far the largest export market. As much as 29 per cent of Norway's total cod exports measured by value went to this market in 2021.

“Cod consumption in Portugal has remained high throughout the pandemic. Over 90 per cent of Portuguese households have eaten cod in the past year. Clipfish, which is by far the most preferred cod product, is an important draw for supermarkets in Portugal”, says Eivind Hestvik Brækkan.

An almost normal year

“Despite the corona pandemic, closures and reductions in tourism, export volumes to Portugal have been almost the same as in a normal year, and consumption is surprisingly good. The Portuguese insist on their clipfish - even in times of crisis”, says Johnny Thomassen, the Norwegian Seafood Council's envoy to Portugal.

The increase in the total export value of clipfish last year comes from saithe clipfish. It is the only one of our large whitefish products that have had an increase in the export price in 2021.

Record year in several markets

“Saithe clipfish is a storage-friendly product that has experienced high demand throughout the pandemic and is popular in the Caribbean, Brazil and several African countries. Last year set a record in both export value and volume. The Dominican Republic, which is our largest market for saithe clipfish, also had a record year, both in volume and value. An exception is Brazil, where the export volume was on a par with 2020, which is significantly lower than 2019”, says Eivind Hestvik Brækkan, Seafood Analyst with the Norwegian Seafood Council.

A decline for salted fish

  • Exports of salted fish in 2021 were 24,800 tonnes.
  • The export value was NOK 1.2 billion.
  • The export volume fell by 3 per cent from 2020.
  • The value fell by NOK 247 million, or 17 per cent, compared with 2020.

“The export volume to our largest salted fish market Portugal increased 4 per cent, while the volume of exports to both Italy and Spain decreased last year. Also for salted fish, the first half of last year was characterized by low prices, with a gradual improvement over the autumn”, says Eivind Hestvik Brækkan, Seafood Analyst with the Norwegian Seafood Council.

An uplift for stockfish

  • Exports of stockfish in 2021 were 4,300 tonnes.
  • The export value was NOK 729 million.
  • Export volume increased by 9 per cent from 2020.
  • Export value increased by NOK 24 million, or 3 per cent, compared with 2020.

“The export volume to our largest stockfish market in Italy increased by as much as 30 per cent last year and is now back at the same level as in the years before the corona pandemic. Admittedly, prices fell by 12 per cent from the previous year, says Eivind Hestvik Brækkan, Seafood Analyst with the Norwegian Seafood Council.

The largest markets in 2021

  • Norwegian seafood producers exported 1.7 million tonnes of seafood to the EU worth NOK 70 billion. This is 7 per cent up in volume, while the value increased by NOK 6.4 billion, or 10 per cent, compared with 2020.
  • In 2021, 585,000 tonnes of seafood worth NOK 23.6 billion were exported to Asia. This is an increase in volume of 20 per cent, while the value increased by NOK 4.3 billion, or 23 per cent, compared with 2020.
  • Export volume to Eastern Europe was 189,000 tonnes, while export value ended the year at NOK 5.5 billion. This is an increase in volume of 20 per cent, while the value increased by NOK 1.4 billion, or 33 per cent, compared with 2020.
  • Poland is our largest market measured in export value. The reason is that the country is first and foremost a processing market. In 2021, 284,000 tonnes of seafood were exported to Poland, worth NOK 12.6 billion. This is an increase of 5 per cent in volume and an increase in value of NOK 960 million, or 8 per cent, compared with 2020.
  • Denmark is the second-largest market for Norwegian seafood, measured in export value. Norway exported seafood worth NOK 10.4 billion to Denmark in 2021. This is an increase of NOK 648 million, or 7 per cent, compared with 2020. The reason is that Denmark is a transit market, mainly to the EU.
  • Measured by export value, these are the 10 largest individual countries to which Norway exported seafood in 2021: Poland, Denmark, France, the USA, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, China and Japan.

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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.

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Martin Skaug

Martin Skaug

Press contact Communications director +47 915 59 902
Dag Sørli

Dag Sørli

Press contact PR Manager PR & Kommunikasjon +47 970 16 311

Proudly representing Seafood from Norway

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.

Norwegian Seafood Council
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