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Weak Norwegian kroner leads to best ever first half year for seafood exports

Press release   •   Jul 06, 2020 04:00 UTC

Photo: Norwegian Seafood Council

The export value of Norwegian seafood reached an all-time high for the first half of the year. In the first six months of this year, Norway exported seafood with a value of NOK 52.9 billion. This is an increase in value of 3.5 per cent, or NOK 1.8 billion, measured against the first half of 2019.

“Despite a very challenging spring with the corona crisis, we have still seen growth in seafood exports in the first half of the year. Salmon, trout, herring and mackerel have increased the most compared to the first half of 2019. A weak Norwegian krone is the main factor driving growth”, says Renate Larsen, CEO of the Norwegian Seafood Council.

“Increased quotas for mackerel, increased production of trout and a turn towards more consumption of salmon fillet have also helped to raise export value”, says Larsen.

Three important factors

Although the overall picture shows growth in value for Norwegian seafood exports in the first half of the year, Renate Larsen emphasizes that several species and product types have experienced a decline in value, such as fresh cod, prawn and king crab. Three factors in particular have contributed to this:

  • An almost global shutdown of the hotel and restaurant segment.
  • Fewer flights due to severe travel restrictions.
  • Very bad weather in the main season for fresh cod which resulted in reduced catches.

“We also observe that salted fish, scallops and codfish were hit hard in the first half of the year. This is caused by, amongst other factors, major challenges associated with the corona virus in traditionally large markets such as Brazil and Italy”, says Larsen.

“When we convert to other currencies, we also see a decline in the export price for some products, which indicates a fall in demand. Reduced purchasing power, the risk of the corona virus flaring up again and uncertainty in the value chain are factors that make future prospects uncertain”, says Larsen.

Minister for Fisheries and Seafood is satisfied

“A new record for seafood exports in the first half of the year is both gratifying and impressive. The seafood industry contributes to jobs along our entire coast. Even though the krone exchange rate plays in, the recent figures show that the industry has so far managed well through the corona crisis”, says Odd Emil Ingebrigtsen (H), Minister of Fisheries and Seafood.

As in the six-month figures, seafood exports in June have also shown a growth in value:

  • Seafood was exported for NOK 8.4 billion.
  • There is an increase in value of 5 per cent, or NOK 400 million, compared with June last year.

Growth in EU salmon exports

  • Norway exported 501,000 tonnes of salmon worth NOK 35 billion in the first half of 2020.
  • Export volume remains at the same level as last year.
  • Export value increased by NOK 598 million, or 2 per cent, compared with the first half of last year.
  • The average price for fresh whole salmon increased from NOK 63.71 to NOK 64.62 per kilo.
  • Poland, France and Denmark were the largest recipients of salmon from Norway in the first half of the year.

“Salmon exports were hit hard by the corona crisis, with reduced turnover in the restaurant sector, but since April we have seen an improvement in the situation. Important markets such as Italy, the United Kingdom and France have moved towards normalization of demand following a sharp fall in consumption in March and April”, says Paul T. Aandahl, Seafood Analyst with the Norwegian Seafood Council.

The EU has overall increased its value share of total exports from 70 to 71 per cent in the first half, while exports of Norwegian salmon to Asia during the same period saw a slight reduction in value.

“Exports have varied widely from month to month and between markets. The largest variety has been China, with an almost stop in February. Here we have seen a gradual growth up to and including May, before it again stopped in June after a flare-up of the corona virus and the introduction of strict restrictions that affected food imports into China”, says Aandahl.

Salmon exports in June show the same trend as the half-year figures. Here too, there is a value growth:

  • 83,500 tonnes of salmon were exported to a value of NOK 5.8 billion.
  • There is a 2 percent increase in volume.
  • The value increased by 3 per cent, or NOK 196 million, compared with June last year.

New consumer trends in South Korea

South Korea has been the most stable market in Asia with growth throughout the first half of the year. In total, value growth has been 11 per cent, taking total exports to NOK 1.1 billion.

“Norwegian salmon has a market share in South Korea of more than 80 percent, and most of this is eaten in restaurants. However, we now see a clear shift in the consumer market where more and more people order their food online and eat it at home for fear of Corona infection. Salmon sales to the hotel and restaurant industry are declining, while grocery retail sales are growing sharply”, says Gunvar L. Wie, fisheries envoy to Japan and South Korea for the Norwegian Seafood Council.

Weaker price trend for trout

  • Norway exported 31,600 tonnes of trout for NOK 1.8 billion in the first half of the year.
  • Export volume increased by 29 per cent.
  • The value increased by NOK 168 million, or 10 per cent, compared with the first half of last year.
  • The average price for fresh whole trout was NOK 54.37. This is 16 per cent lower than the average price for fresh whole salmon.
  • The US, Ukraine and Japan were the largest markets for Norwegian trout in the first half of the year.

“Trout has had a weaker price trend than salmon in the first half of the year. One of the reasons for this is that the trout is more dependent on overseas markets than the salmon and is thus more exposed to the increased air freight costs. Strong volume growth combined with increased logistics costs have pushed the price of trout below the salmon price in the first half”, says Aandahl.

As in the first half of the year, there was also a value increase for trout in June:

  • 6,300 tonnes of trout were exported to a value of NOK 336 million.
  • Volume increased by 19 per cent.
  • Export value increased by NOK 14 million, or 4 per cent, compared with June last year.

Clipfish exports hit hard by the Corona crisis

  • Norway exported 38,700 tonnes of clipfish worth NOK 2 billion in the first half of the year.
  • There was a 7 per cent reduction in export volume.
  • Export value increased by NOK 59 million, or 3 per cent.
  • Portugal, Brazil and the Dominican Republic were the most important markets for Norwegian clipfish during the first half of the year.

The reason for the growth in value in the first half of the year is that the period before the corona crisis was characterized by both increased prices and volumes, especially for codfish, but since April exports have fallen.

“Although sales in the grocery business in Portugal have grown during the corona period, it is not enough to make up for the decline of the restaurant segment. In addition, there is uncertainty about future demand in Portugal as a result of falling purchasing power. The challenges in the Brazilian market also create uncertainty for both Norwegian and Portuguese clipfish exporters”, says Ingrid Kristine Pettersen, Seafood Analyst with the Norwegian Seafood Council.

After a somewhat sluggish start to the year, the export of clipfish of saithe has had a somewhat more positive development during the corona period, with price and volume growth compared to last year.

“Although a weak Norwegian krone has made a positive contribution, demand in the Caribbean and West Africa has remained stable. Brazil is also an important market for clipfish of saithe”, says Pettersen.

In June, export value for Norwegian clipfish, both in euro and Norwegian krone, fell compared with June last year:

  • 6,400 tonnes of clipfish worth NOK 354 million were exported.
  • This represents a 22 per cent increase in volume.
  • Export value fell by NOK 73 million, or 26 per cent, compared with June last year.

Saltfish exports slow down

  • Norway exported 16 100 tonnes of salted fish worth NOK 980 million in the first half of the year.
  • There is a 5 per cent decrease in volume.
  • The value increased by NOK 34 million, or 4 per cent.
  • Portugal, Spain and Greece were the most important markets for Norwegian salt fish in the first half of the year.

“The start of the year was characterized by both increased volumes and prices for salted cod compared to last year, but from April there have been falling export prices. The reason for this is that salted cod is largely destined for clipfish production in Portugal. Thus, they meet exactly the same challenges as clipfish”, Pettersen explains.

This trend is also reflected in the figures for salt fishing exports in June:

  • 1,800 tonnes of salt fish were exported to a value of NOK 93 million.
  • There is a 36 per cent decrease in volume.
  • The value fell by NOK 56 million, or 38 per cent, compared with June last year.

Tough times for dried fish exports

  • Norway exported 1,200 tonnes of dried cod worth a total of NOK 262 million in the first half of the year.
  • This represents a 16 per cent decrease in volume.
  • Export value fell by NOK 35 million, or 12 per cent.
  • Italy, the United States and Croatia were our most important cod stock markets in the first half of the year.

Approximately 70 per cent of cod fish normally goes to Italy. Although winter is low season, coronary restrictions have led to reduced exports compared to the same period last year.

“Most of the stockfish in Italy is sold through local fish shops and restaurants, but these have largely been closed during the corona period. A gradual opening of the market will be important if exports are to pick up over the next few months”, says Trym Eidem Gundersen, fisheries envoy to Italy for the Norwegian Seafood Council.

Further, in June there was a decrease in volume in these exports:

  • 122 tonnes of dried cod were exported with a value of NOK 24 million.
  • This amounts to a 6 per cent decrease in volume.
  • Total export value for June is at the same level as in June 2019.

Fresh cod is hard hit

  • Norway exported 36 100 tonnes of fresh cod worth NOK 1.6 billion in the first half of the year.
  • There is a 9 percent drop in volume.
  • The value fell by NOK 61 million, or 4 per cent.
  • Denmark, the Netherlands and Poland were the largest recipients of fresh cod from Norway in the first half of the year.

“The corona eruption hit fresh products almost immediately, as the restaurants had to close. The corona outbreak occurred in the middle of the main season for fresh cod, but much bad weather limited fishing. Reduced catches and a weak Norwegian krone helped curb the fall in prices”, says Ingrid Kristine Pettersen, Seafood Analyst with the Norwegian Seafood Council.

As for export developments in June, statistics point to a significant decline in both value and volume:

  • 1,500 tonnes of fresh cod worth NOK 62 million were exported.
  • There has been a 28 per cent decrease in volume.
  • June export value fell by NOK 30 million, or 33 per cent, compared with June 2019.

Increase in value for frozen cod

  • Norway exported 41,000 tonnes of frozen cod worth NOK 1.9 billion in the first half of the year.
  • There is a 2 percent increase in volume.
  • The value increased by NOK 199 million, or 12 per cent from the same period last year.
  • China, the United Kingdom and Lithuania were the largest recipients of frozen cod in the first half of the year.
  • Exports of both frozen whole and fillet have experienced a growth in value in the first half. Among other things, there has been growth in the United Kingdom, France and Sweden.


“This is primarily due to higher volumes and prices compared to the same period in 2019. Increased sales of cod in groceries and a shift towards frozen and processed products in several markets have resulted in higher exports of frozen fillets during the corona period than the same period last year”, says seafood analyst Ingrid Kristine Pettersen of the Norwegian Seafood Council.

In June, this growth was further boosted:

  • 6,600 tonnes of frozen cod worth NOK 282 million were exported.
  • There is an increase in volume of 80 percent.
  • The value increased by NOK 119 million, or 74 per cent, compared with June last year.

Strong first half year for herring

  • Norway exported 154,000 tonnes of herring worth NOK 1.8 billion in the first half of the year.
  • Export volume remained at the same level as in 2019.
  • Export value increased by NOK 411 million, or 30 per cent.
  • Poland, Lithuania and Egypt were the most important markets for Norwegian herring in the first half of 2020.

“We can safely say that the first half of the year has been good for Norwegian herring. If we measure in US dollars, the average price is about 15 percent higher so far this year than last year, while it is 30 percent higher measured in Norwegian kroner”, says Frank Isaksen, Chief Analyst of the Norwegian Seafood Council.

In June, the price and volume of the North Sea herring seasonal product were at the same level as last year, but the total volume and value of herring exports were low:

  • 18,600 tonnes of herring were exported to a value of NOK 242 million.
  • This represented a 31 per cent reduction in volume.
  • The value fell by NOK 30 million, or 11 per cent, compared with June last year.

Export boom for mackerel

  • Norway exported 117,000 tonnes of mackerel worth NOK 2 billion in the first half of the year.
  • Mackerel export rose 44 per cent by volume.
  • Export value increased by NOK 658 million, or 47 per cent.
  • China, South Korea and Japan were the largest markets for Norwegian mackerel in the first half of the year.

“The export value of mackerel so far this year is the highest ever measured. This is largely due to a sharp increase in export volume, which can be explained by increased landings of mackerel in Norway by foreign vessels. The average export price so far this year has remained virtually unchanged measured in Norwegian kroner”, says Frank Isaksen, Chief Analyst with the Norwegian Seafood Council.

Strong growth in Japan

Japan is one of the drivers for the strong development of mackerel exports, and in this market the first part of 2020 has been characterized by very strong growth:

  • Volume growth in the first half of the year: 44 per cent
  • Value growth in the first half of the year: 46 per cent

“As in many other countries, the corona fear led to hoarding in Japan as well, and an increased focus on healthy and sustainable food. While we eat relatively little mackerel here at home, mackerel consumption is rising in Japan. Boxing mackerel has, among other things, become far more popular than tuna in boxing in Japan, precisely because it is healthy and can be stored for a long time”, says Gunvar L. Wie, fisheries envoy to Japan and South Korea, with the Norwegian Seafood Council.

The highly positive trend for mackerel is also evident for June exports:

  • 9,500 tonnes of mackerel were exported with a value of NOK 184 million.
  • This represents a 5 per cent increase in volume.
  • The value increased by NOK 26 million, or 16 per cent, compared with June last year.

Significant reduction for king crab

  • Norway exported 616 tonnes of king crab worth NOK 209 million in the first half of the year.
  • There is a 26 per cent reduction in volume.
  • The value fell by NOK 53 million, or 20 per cent.
  • South Korea, the United States and the Netherlands were the largest recipients of king crab in the first half.

“The reduced export volume of king crabs has been affected both by the closure of large parts of the restaurant sector in most markets and the challenge of accessing air cargo”, says Frank Isaksen, Chief Analyst with the Norwegian Seafood Council.

The air freight market has improved somewhat in recent months, especially to the Asian markets, and June saw a slight increase in value for exports:

  • 117 tonnes of king crab were exported to a value of NOK 40 million.
  • This is a 6 per cent reduction in volume.
  • The value increased by NOK 600,000, or 2 per cent, compared with June last year.

Prawn exports fall

  • 5,600 tonnes of prawn worth NOK 449 million were exported in the first half of the year.
  • The volume of prawn exports fell by 24 per cent.
  • Export value fell by NOK 92 million, or 17 per cent, for the first half of the year.
  • The largest destination markets were Sweden, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
  • In June, 1,100 tonnes of prawn were exported with a value of NOK 81 million.
  • This represents a 5 per cent reduction in volume.
  • Export value for June fell by NOK 9 million, or 10 per cent, compared with June 2019.

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.