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Stable Norwegian seafood exports in 2020 despite the corona pandemic

Press release   •   Jan 06, 2021 05:00 UTC

Photo: Norwegian Seafood Council

Despite a very demanding year, Norway exported 2.7 million tonnes of seafood worth NOK 105.7 billion in 2020. This is the second-highest value ever and equates to 37 million meals every day throughout the year or 25,000 meals per minute.

The total volume of seafood exports increased by 2 per cent in 2020, while the value was reduced by 1 per cent, or NOK 1.5 billion, compared with the record year of 2019.

"Even though 2020 was a very different year, much of our seafood exports have managed to defy the biggest challenges in the wake of the corona pandemic. We have seen how strong Norwegian seafood is globally and can be proud of the industry´s ability to adapt quickly here at home as well as maintaining the strong position we have with consumers worldwide", says Renate Larsen, CEO of the Norwegian Seafood Council.

"I am happy that seafood exports once again have exceeded NOK 100 billion in export value. The first time we managed this was in 2019, and that we have managed to repeat this in the corona year 2020, is fantastic", says Odd Emil Ingebrigtsen, Minister of Fisheries and Seafood (H).

A strong start to the year

2020 began well for Norwegian seafood exports, with high values and optimism for another record year, but then the corona pandemic hit markets worldwide.

"As societies started to shut down, Norwegian seafood exports lost a very important sales channel, namely the restaurant and hotel segment. There were challenges in logistics, and sales of seafood were largely moved to grocery chains, online shopping and takeaway services", says Renate Larsen, CEO of the Norwegian Seafood Council.

Despite this, the export value has remained stable in 2020.

"The picture is still nuanced. There has been a very positive development for products such as herring and mackerel, while there have been challenges and declines for clipfish and stockfish, among other things", says Renate Larsen.

Impressed with the seafood industry

Minister of Fisheries and Seafood Odd Emil Ingebrigtsen praises the Norwegian seafood industry.

"The industry deserves credit for the way they have adapted to uncertain and difficult market conditions in 2020. Throughout the year, I have been impressed by the willingness and ability to adapt throughout the industry. This has largely contributed to seafood exports doing well throughout the corona year, says Odd Emil Ingebrigtsen, Minister of Fisheries and Seafood.

Five important factors

2020 was the second-best year ever for Norwegian seafood exports. There are largely five factors that have contributed to this:

  • A weakened Norwegian krone
  • An adaptable seafood industry
  • Individual species such as mackerel and herring have experienced strong growth
  • The export value for salmon is the second highest ever
  • Norwegian seafood is a highly sought-after global commodity

Responsive to new seafood trends

"Norwegian seafood has responded to many of the strongest growth trends in consumer behaviour, such as an increased focus on value-based choices related to health and sustainability. This is exciting and good news when we now hopefully very soon, start to put the corona pandemic behind us. The restaurant market will gradually begin to reopen, and many more consumers have learned to make fish and shellfish at home", says Renate Larsen.

A decline for aquaculture

The relationship between aquaculture and fisheries has changed little since last year. Aquaculture contributes 70 per cent by value, and 44.9 per cent by volume.

  • In 2020, Norway exported 1.2 million tonnes of fish from aquaculture.
  • Export value was NOK 74.2 billion.
  • Export volume has increased by 3 per cent.
  • Export value has fallen by NOK 2.1 billion, or 3 per cent, from 2019.

Growth for wild-caught fish

Fisheries account for 30 per cent of total seafood exports measured in value, while in volume they account for 55.1 per cent.

  • For fisheries, the export volume totalled 1.5 million tonnes.
  • Export value was NOK 31.5 billion.
  • Export volume has increased by less than 1 per cent.
  • Export value has increased by NOK 643 million, or 2 per cent, from 2019.

Second highest export value for salmon

Salmon is by far the largest species measured in volume and value.

  • Exports of salmon in 2020 totalled 1.1 million tonnes.
  • The total export value was NOK 70.1 billion.
  • Export volume increased by 2 per cent.
  • Export value fell by NOK 2.3 billion, or 3 per cent, from 2019.

"The Corona pandemic has led to increased demand for processed products for sale in the retail trade. An increasing proportion of salmon is further processed in Norway. The export value for salmon in 2020 is the second-highest that has been registered, and in terms of volume it is a record, says Paul T. Aandahl, Seafood Analyst with the Norwegian Seafood Council.

The value share of processed seafood products increased from 20 per cent in 2019 to 23 per cent in 2020.

"At the same time, there has been a shift in the flow of goods towards countries such as Poland, Denmark and the Netherlands, which to a large extent process salmon for resale to other markets, primarily in the EU. Some markets have received lower salmon volumes from Norway in 2020. The largest decline has been in the export value to Italy, China, Lithuania and the Hong Kong SAR, says Paul T. Aandahl.

A good year for trout

Trout is the second major species of fish.

  • In 2020, 71,800 tonnes of trout were exported.
  • Export value amounted to NOK 3.9 billion.
  • Export volume increased by 21 per cent.
  • Export value increased by NOK 185 million, or 5 per cent, from 2019.

"There have been large fluctuations in trout exports in recent years. In terms of volume, the record was set in 2008 with just over 73,700 tonnes. In terms of value, 2020 is the second-highest after the record year of 2016", says Paul T. Aandahl, Seafood Analyst with the Norwegian Seafood Council.

Decline for cod

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

  • Exports of cod in 2020 were 172,000 tonnes
  • The export value was NOK 9.6 billion.
  • Export volume fell by 4 per cent.
  • Export value fell by NOK 431 million, or 4 per cent, from 2019.

"After a fantastic start to the year, with price growth for most products, it looked like 2020 would be a promising year for cod exports. During the corona crisis, however, demand fell, which has resulted in falling prices for most products. Had it not been for the weak Norwegian krone, the fall in prices would have been significantly steeper", says Ingrid Kristine Pettersen, Seafood Analyst with the Norwegian Seafood Council.

The loss of the restaurant segment was the main reason for the declining demand.

"At the same time, we saw a growth in home consumption and increased demand for frozen products in several markets. This is probably one of the reasons why frozen fillets of cod have seen a price increase in 2020, measured both in Norwegian kroner and in euros", says Ingrid Kristine Pettersen.

A new record for Mackerel

Mackerel is the second largest species in the catching sector.

  • The export volume of mackerel in 2020 totalled 300,000 tonnes.
  • Export value ended on a new record with NOK 5 billion.
  • Export volume increased 26 per cent from 2019.
  • Export value increased by NOK 693 million, or 16 per cent.

"With an increase in the mackerel quota of 41 per cent from 2019, it was in the cards that the export volume would increase significantly in 2020. Usually leads to a sharp increase in supply to a correspondingly sharp fall in price, but good demand in important markets such as Japan, South Korea and Taiwan caused the price drop to be a moderate 7 per cent", says Jan Eirik Johnsen, Manager for Pelagic Strategy with the Norwegian Seafood Council

"In addition to the fact that mackerel is strong in the food culture in our important Asian markets, we have in recent years seen a significant product development, increased focus on healthy food and increased sales through e-commerce, especially in South Korea. All these factors have contributed to raising the consumption of Norwegian mackerel", says Jan Eirik Johnsen.

Strong year for herring exports

Herring experienced strong value growth last year.

  • 316,000 tonnes of herring were exported in 2020.
  • The value of herring exports was NOK 3.8 billion.
  • Export volume fell by 11 per cent.
  • Export value increased by NOK 590 million, or 18 per cent.

"History has shown us that herring is doing well in times of crisis, and that was also the case this time. In Germany, which is our most important herring market and where herring consumption has been declining for some time, we saw that the demand for especially canned herring jumped when the corona crisis occurred", says Jan Eirik Johnsen, Manager for Pelagic Strategy with the Norwegian Seafood Council

In total, the consumption of herring in Germany increased by 10 per cent last year. - We saw the same development in our second most important herring market, Poland. The increased demand in these markets led to a shift in exports from whole frozen herring to fillets and processed products at a higher price, says Jan Eirik Johnsen.

Exports of herring roe set a solid new record in 2020. Export volume increased by 53 per cent and prices increased by 73 per cent compared with 2019. This gave an export value of NOK 430 million.

"Lack of capelin fishing and thus lack of capelin roe in the market resulted in a sharp increase in the demand for herring roe. Herring roe has become a premium product”, says Jan Eirik Johnsen.

Declines for saithe and haddock

Saithe is the second largest species in whitefish. Exports in 2020 were 99,400 tonnes, while the value was NOK 2.4 billion. Volume fell by 14 per cent, while export value fell by NOK 125 million, or 5 per cent, from 2019.

Haddock is our third most important species in whitefish. Exports of haddock in 2020 totalled 58,700 tonnes, while the value was NOK 1.6 billion. The volume fell by 2 per cent, while the value fell by NOK 143 million, or 8 per cent, from 2019.

Prawn exports weakened

Prawn is our largest species in shellfish.

  • Exports of prawn in 2020 were 12,000 tonnes.
  • The value was NOK 909 million.
  • The volume fell by 25 per cent.
  • The value fell by NOK 176 million, or 16 per cent, from 2019.

The decline in value in 2020 has primarily been driven by lower demand in our main European markets.

"The impact of closed restaurants has mostly impacted frozen peeled prawn, which makes up 79 percent of the export value. Increased sales of frozen peeled prawn in the retail trade have not managed to cover the loss of the restaurant and canteen segment", says Josefine Voraa, Manager for Shellfish with the Norwegian Seafood Council.

Prawn exports to the UK are halved

In 2019, the United Kingdom was the second-largest export market for Norwegian prawn. In 2020, prawn exports were halved in both value and volume.

"This is largely due to the corona crisis and uncertainty associated with Brexit. To our largest prawn market Sweden, which accounts for 36 per cent of the export value, exports in 2020 are in line with 2019. Also, lower demand has led to lower prices, reduced prawn catches in Norway and fewer exports of industrial prawn for processing in other markets", says Josefine Voraa.

The best year ever for king crab

King crab is our second largest species in shellfish.

  • The export volume of king crab in 2020 totalled 2,000 tonnes.
  • The export value was NOK 668 million.
  • Export volume fell by 1 per cent.
  • Export value increased by NOK 27 million, or 4 per cent, from 2019.

Strong demand growth this autumn combined with a weak krone measured against the dollar and adaptable Norwegian players has led to the export value of red king crab being the highest ever.

"Challenging logistics at the start of the corona crisis and closed restaurants put a damper on exports of red king crab in the first half of the year, with a decrease in value of 20 per cent, or NOK 52 million, compared to 2019", says manager for shellfish in the Norwegian Seafood Council, Josefine Voraa.

Volume growth in Asia

When the logistics challenges were resolved, there was strong growth in exports of red king crab in the second half of the year, with an increase in the export value of 21 per cent, or NOK 80 million.

"Measured in dollars, prices have been relatively stable in 2020. For live red king crab, there has been an increase in export value of NOK 63 million, which has been driven by volume growth in markets such as Vietnam, Hong Kong SAR and South Korea. This autumn, we also experienced strong growth in demand for frozen red king crab in the USA, France and Japan", says Josefine Voraa.

Good market development for snow crab

Snow crab is our third largest shellfish species.

  • Exports of snow crab in 2020 were 2,500 tonnes.
  • The total value of exports was NOK 362 million.
  • Export volume is at the same level as in 2019.
  • Export value increased by NOK 32 million, or 10 per cent, from 2019.

"Snow crab exports have had a very exciting development in 2020, with increased prices and increased sales of snow crab in the retail trade in the USA and China, says Josefine Voraa, Manager for Shellfish with the Norwegian Seafood Council.

A tougher year for clipfish

2020 was a challenging year for clipfish exports.

  • Exports of clipfish in 2020 were 83,400 tonnes.
  • Export value was NOK 4.3 billion.
  • Export volume fell by 9 per cent.
  • The value of exports fell by NOK 457 million, or 10 per cent, from 2019.

It is cod clipfish that has seen the largest decline.

"The main reason is a significant reduction in exports to Brazil, but reduced demand in Portugal as a result of the corona crisis and closed restaurants have also contributed negatively", says Ingrid Kristine Pettersen, Seafood Analyst with the Norwegian Seafood Council.

Brazilian market is demanding

2020 has been a demanding year for Norwegian clipfish in Brazil.

"The country has been hit hard by the pandemic at the same time as low oil prices have led to a weakening of the Brazilian real against the dollar. Declining stocks and early Easter, which is the most important sales period for Norwegian clipfish in Brazil, have, however, contributed to increased clipfish exports of cod and saithe in December compared to the same month in 2019, says Øystein Valanes, the Norwegian Seafood Council's seafood envoy to Brazil.

Strong Christmas sales in Portugal

Christmas is traditionally the main season for clipfish consumption in Portugal, and over 25 per cent of clipfish sales take place in December.

"Although total consumption has fallen in 2020, Christmas sales in the grocery trade have exceeded all expectations. Several of the chains report better December sales in 2020 than in 2019. The main reason is probably aggressive price campaigns in stores, says Johnny Thomassen, the Norwegian Seafood Council's seafood envoy to Portugal.

At the same time, the value of saithe clipfish has been fairly stable in 2020 compared to 2019. This has happened even though Brazil is also an important market for saithe clipfish.

"The reason is strong demand in the Caribbean during the corona crisis. Norway has never before exported so much clipfish to the Dominican Republic as in 2020, neither measured by volume nor by value", says Ingrid Kristine Pettersen.I 2019 var Storbritannia det nest største eksportmarkedet for norske reker. I 2020 ble eksporten halvert både i verdi og volum.

Growth for salted fish

2020 resulted in growth in both volume and value for Norwegian salted fish.

  • Exports of salted fish in 2020 were 25,600 tonnes.
  • The value of exports was NOK 1.4 billion.
  • Export volume increased by 9 per cent.
  • Export value increased by NOK 154 million, or 12 per cent, from 2019.

"The growth in 2020 is compared with a weak 2019, where there were particularly low export volumes of salted whole cod. Volumes increased in 2020, and at the beginning of the year prices were also high, and both of these factors have contributed to value growth. At the same time, the price has fallen significantly since the beginning of 2020, which reflects the reduced demand, says Ingrid Kristine Pettersen, Seafood Analyst with the Norwegian Seafood Council.

Stockfish severely affected

The corona crisis has hit Norwegian stockfish exports hard.

  • Exports of stockfish in 2020 were 4,900 tonnes.
  • The value was NOK 712 million.
  • The volume fell by 13 percent.
  • The value fell by NOK 114 million, or 14 per cent, from 2019.

"The reason for the decline is the failure of the Italian market. As the country closed down as a result of the corona pandemic, several of the traditional stockfish outlets also closed. This has made stockfish less accessible to the Italians", says Ingrid Kristine Pettersen, Seafood Analystwith the Norwegian Seafood Council.

Largest markets in 2020

Norwegian seafood producers exported 1.7 million tonnes of seafood to the EU totalling NOK 69 billion. This is 2 per cent up in volume, while the value fell by NOK 1.5 billion, or 1 per cent, compared with 2019.

In 2020, 504,000 tonnes of seafood worth NOK 19.8 billion were exported to Asia. This is a decrease in volume of 5 per cent, while the value fell by NOK 2 billion, or 10 per cent, compared with 2019.

Export volume to Eastern Europe amounted to 141,000 tonnes, while the total export value ended at NOK 3.5 billion. This is a decrease in volume of 3 per cent, while the value fell by NOK 221 million, or 6 per cent, compared with 2019.

Poland is our largest market measured in export value. 271,000 tonnes of seafood worth NOK 11.6 billion were exported. This is an increase of 2 per cent in volume and an increase of NOK 968 million, or 9 per cent, compared with 2019.

Denmark is the second-largest market for Norwegian seafood, measured in export value. Norway exported seafood worth NOK 9.7 billion to Denmark in 2020. This is an increase of NOK 497 million, or 5 per cent, compared with 2019.

Measured in value, these are the 10 largest individual countries to which Norway exported seafood in 2020: Poland, Denmark, France, the USA, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Spain, Japan, Italy and China.

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.