A record January for Norwegian seafood exports

Collage of Norwegian seafood. Background photo: Knut Aaserud. Food photos of clip fish, mackerel, salmon, skrei and prawns: Studio Dreyer Hensley.
Collage of Norwegian seafood. Background photo: Knut Aaserud. Food photos of clip fish, mackerel, salmon, skrei and prawns: Studio Dreyer Hensley.

Norway exported seafood products worth NOK 12.700 million (€1.156 million, $1.261 million) in the first month of 2023. That means an increase of 23% over the same period last year and, also, a record January for Norwegian seafood exports. In presenting the results, the Norwegian Seafood Council (NSC) has highlighted that price growth has been the main cause of this record growth. However, it also warned that export volumes of some popular species such as salmon, cod, trout, and haddock have declined. In the specific case of salmon, the decline in exports to Europe is very significant.

High prices, troubled times, and a low crown

"Price growth is the most important reason why January was another record month for seafood exports", says Christian Chramer, CEO of the Norwegian Seafood Council. "The export prices for salmon, cod, trout, pollock and herring were significantly higher than in January 2022", he adds.

Chramer also notes that, despite difficult times and changes in product flows, seafood exports have reached new heights. But he warns, "Inflation is still high in large parts of the world, and consumers in Europe have significant challenges with lower purchasing power and negative expectations for their economy going forward".

In fact, the NSC reports that January saw a decrease in the volume of fresh whole salmon exports to Europe. Only 66 percent of Norway's total exports of salmon measured in value went to Europe last month. "This is the lowest proportion of salmon that has gone to Europe in a single month since April 1989", says Chramer.

"Seafood exports for January follow the strong trend we have seen over the past 17 months, with monthly seafood exports of over NOK 10 billion. Despite lower export volumes of salmon, cod, trout and haddock, increased export volumes of pollock and herring contributed to the increase in export value. A weaker Norwegian krone has also contributed to the record", states the CEO of the NSC.

Christian Chramer, CEO of the Norwegian Seafood Council. Photo: Norwegian Seafood Council.

United States, the largest export market

Meanwhile, Paul Aandahl, Seafood Analyst with the Norwegian Seafood Council, says that "it is the increased salmon price that is driving the increase in value in January". The average export price for whole fresh salmon in January was 32% higher than in the same month last year. However, he also warns of a change in the flow of goods. "In January, 34 per cent of the salmon, measured in value, went to markets outside Europe. We must go back to 1989 to find a higher figure", he says.

If January saw the lowest proportion of Norwegian salmon exported to Europe since April 1989, also for the first time since that date, the United States was the largest market for Norwegian seafood exports. With an increase of 41 percent over January last year, they reached a value of NOK 1.150 million (€104 million, $114 million). However, the export volume also declined, although significantly less than in Europe. In the case of the U.S., it ended at 9,655 tons, 4% less than in the same month last year.

While the value of other seafood species exported to the USA, such as cod and haddock, has decreased, salmon exports have increased by as much as 59%. The North American country thus became not just Norway's most important salmon market in January but also the market where the value of salmon exports increased the most in the first month of the year.

"There could be several reasons for this", explains Anne-Kristine Øen, Norway´s seafood envoy to the U.S. "A strong dollar and reduced competition from salmon from other nations contribute positively. The demand for salmon, in general, has increased sharply after the pandemic. We had increased food prices through 2022, and the salmon is still competitive compared to other proteins".

Paul T. Aandahl, Seafood Analyst at the Norwegian Seafood Council. Photo: Marius Fiskum / Norges sjømatråd.

17th month in a row with seafood exports exceeding NOK 10.000 million

According to the Norwegian Seafood Council, Norwegian seafood products were exported to a total of 116 countries in January. Along with the United States, the largest markets were Denmark and Poland. The first month of 2023 was the 17th month in a row with seafood exports exceeding NOK 10.000 million (€912 million, $996 million) and the sixth consecutive month with exports of more than NOK 12.000 million (€1.094 million, $1.196 million).

The increase in pollock export volume, which has higher quotas this year, also contributed to the growth in export value in January. Among individual species, January saw record exports of both pollock and tusk, although trout exports declined. As mentioned above, there was also a change in the performance of salmon, where a third of exports went to markets outside Europe.

Cod deserves a special mention. Although there was a decline in fresh cod, the NSC says prices are at a record level. The same goes for skrei, which had a lower volume and higher prices. Frozen cod was also down both in volume and value, but farmed cod continued to grow. Clipfish had a good start to the year too, with Portugal continuing to be the main export market.

These results come after 2022 marked a new record year for Norwegian seafood exports, with export value increasing by 25% compared to 2021, which had already been a record year. Last year was also the best export year ever for Norwegian salmon. It was the first time that salmon exports exceeded NOK 100 billion (€9.119 million, $9.966 million).

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