Best May ever for Norwegian seafood exports

This record figure is largely due to growth both in value - this time without the currency effect help - and export volumes of salmon and trout.
Norwegian salmon in a fishmonger's shop in Thailand.

Norwegian salmon in a fishmonger's shop in Thailand. Salmon remains the largest and most important species by far in Norwegian seafood exports.

Photo: Norwegian Seafood Council.

Last month, Norway exported seafood products worth NOK 14 billion (EUR 1.217 million / USD 1.306 million). This is an increase of NOK 1 billion (EUR 86.96 million / USD 93.28 million), or 8%, compared to the same month last year. This means 2024 has been the best May ever for Norwegian seafood exports.

"The growth in value in May is largely due to increased export volumes of both salmon and trout, as well as price growth for salmon," said the Norwegian Seafood Council (NSC) CEO, Christian Chramer.

May thus confirms the recovery of the upward trend we saw in April and also seems to confirm that the blip in March - the first month in which the value of Norwegian seafood exports fell after three consecutive years of growth - was just that, an exception in the steady growth story of Norway's seafood exports.

Farewell to the currency effect

In addition, May saw the end of another trend in recent months. The Norwegian krone, which in the first four months of the year was weaker than in the corresponding months of last year, thus favoring export prices, is no longer so. As NSC's CEO explains, this has now changed. 

"In May, the Norwegian krone strengthened, so there was no positive currency effect last month. Despite this, the value of Norwegian seafood exports has never been higher in May before. Although these are challenging economic times for many consumers, Norwegian seafood is still a highly sought-after food product," he said. 

So far this year, Norway's seafood exports have reached a cumulative value of NOK 68.500 million (EUR 5.965 million / USD 6.403 million). This is 2% more - NOK 1.200 million (EUR 104.50 million / 112.17 million) - than in the same period last year. Portugal with a value increase of 22%, Spain with 19%, and the Netherlands with 15%, are the three EU countries with the highest growth.

Salmon remains steady, cod gives way to trout

In its results, the Norwegian Seafood Council noted that salmon remains the largest and most important species by far. In May 2024, the export value of Norwegian salmon exceeded NOK 10.000 million (UR 871.25 million / USD 935.130 million).

May was also the first month in 2024 to record growth in salmon volumes. "In May, there was growth in volume for the first time this year. This contributed greatly to the export value of salmon exceeding NOK 10 billion last month," Christian Chramer explained.

Moreover, May was also a historic month for trout in Norway. The value of this fish has never been so high in a single month. Volume, on the other hand, grew by 83%. While trout fillet exports increased, it was the whole fish that made the difference. Fresh whole trout increased in value by 81%, accounting for 70% of the total value, compared to 64% in May last year.

"Although trout accounted for only five per cent of the total value of farmed salmonids in May, there was strong growth. This is an important contribution to the further development of this category, and it will be exciting to follow the development of trout throughout the year," stated NSC's CEO.

As far as cod is concerned, landings of fresh cod more than halved in May, so, as NSC seafood analyst Eivind Hestvik Brækkan commented, "it's no surprise that export volumes of fresh wild cod also fell sharply." With the skrei season - one of the key factors behind the high value of cod exports in the past few months - ending in April, export volumes of fresh wild cod fell by as much as 45%, while the value of exports fell by 39%.

Meanwhile, the export volume of farmed cod increased by 90%, and its export value increased by 128%. In May, one out of every three Norwegian cod exported came from aquaculture. "As a result, farmed cod accounted for as much as 33 per cent of the export volume of fresh cod in May," Brækkan said.

Clipfish and prawn, the most outstanding among the rest

With 6,779 tons worth NOK 527 million (EUR 45.88 million / USD 49.19 million), May was a solid month for Norwegian clipfish exports. Value increased by 58% compared to the same month in 2023, while volume grew by 49%. "Portugal is, as usual, the largest destination country, with 85 per cent of the export volume of cod clipfish in May," said NSC's seafood analyst Eivind Hestvik Brækkan.

Another species with strong growth in May was prawn. Good fishing in the Barents Sea resulted in increased landings and exports of frozen cooked prawns and frozen raw industrial prawns. This led to a record value of prawn exports in a single month. "The world record is mainly volume-driven," explained Marte Sofie Danielsen, Head of Shellfish at the NSC. "We have to go back to June 2000 to find a larger export volume for prawn in a single month."

Snow crab also developed well and, even though, due to sanctions imposed in the West, practically all Russian crab is exported to Asian markets, demand was increasing in Asia. "The price of snow crab continues the positive trend it has shown so far this year, with the fourth consecutive month of growth," said Danielsen. It should be recalled that the Norwegian snow crab fishery obtained MSC approval in April, which means that catches from January 26th of this year can use the MSC label.

For its part, king crab suffered a drop in both value and volume compared to May last year, however, despite this, performance remains strong compared to previous years. The month was particularly strong for live king crab. "The reopening of the king crab fisheries has led to a strong month for live exports in particular. This is a record high value for a month of May, and only once before has a larger volume of live king crab been exported in May, and that was last year," the Head of Shellfish at the Norwegian Seafood Council explained.

Not as fortunate was herring, which had a weak month. May is the start of the North Sea herring fishery, but this year it began in week 21, compared to week 18 last year. "Despite a great deal of effort, the fishing has been weak, and with a lot of carrion in the fish, the quality has not been good enough for consumption. That's why most of it has been used for flour and oil - and not for export," stated Jan Eirik Johnsen, Head of Pelagic Species with the NSC.

Finally, it was also a weak month for mackerel, whose exports were characterized by quota cuts. "May is the low season for mackerel exports, and with reduced quotas and fewer landings from foreign vessels, a decline in exports is to be expected," Johnsen explained. "The most exciting thing happening on the mackerel front is the negotiations between Norway and the UK on, among other things, Norwegian fishermen's ability to fish in British waters," he concluded.

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