Best single month ever for Norwegian seafood exports

High salmon prices, increasing export volumes and a weak Norwegian krone have made October 2023 a historic moment for Norwegian seafood exports.
October 2023 has been the best single month ever for Norwegian seafood export
October 2023 has been the best single month ever for Norwegian seafood exportAdobe Stock.

According to the latest report from the Norwegian Seafood Council (NSC), Norway has never exported a higher value of seafood products in a single month than in October 2023. Norwegian seafood exports totaled NOK 18.4 billion worth, surpassing the previous record for a single month, achieved in March this year, by NOK 2.7 billion. Last was the best month ever for Norwegian seafood exports.

In March, as now, high salmon prices and a weak Norwegian krone helped to achieve these figures. However, there is a difference: while in March both salmon and cod export volumes were falling, in October salmon is up 6%, and although cod is still down, it is recovering from a 12% fall in March to 9% now in October.

Norwegian seafood exports to record high in 2023

"The growth in value for salmon continues, contributing greatly to October being the best single month ever for Norwegian seafood exports. The combination of high salmon prices, increased export volume and the weak Norwegian krone, lifted the total value to a historically high level," said Christian Chramer, CEO of the NSC. Salmon accounted for 68% of the total value of seafood exports last month.

"2023 has so far been characterised by high food inflation, increased costs and a strong currency effect. These factors have helped push up the value measured in Norwegian kroner. The result is that seafood exports this year will be at a record high," he explained. In the whole of 2022, Norway exported seafood worth NOK 151.4 billion, which was a new record. With still two months to go in a year that is breaking records almost month by month, the country has already exported seafood worth NOK 142.4 billion.

In October, Norwegian seafood products were exported to a total of 116 countries, with Poland, Denmark and the USA being the largest markets. However, despite all the positive figures, the Norwegian Seafood Council report says that there has been a decline in seafood imports and consumption in many of the major European seafood markets.

"The decline in inflation in recent months, as well as prospects for somewhat improved economic development, however, gives hope that demand will improve in Europe going forward," Chramer claimed. An example is the case of Spain, a country that, despite its inflation figures, was the largest destination country for farmed cod.

Salmon accounted for 68% of the total value of Norway's seafood exports in October. Norwegian seafood exports are expected to record high in 2023.
Salmon accounted for 68% of the total value of Norway's seafood exports in October. Norwegian seafood exports are expected to record high in 2023.Norwegian Seafood Council.

Salmon, the Christmas star

"So far this year, the export value of salmon has increased by 18 per cent, measured in Norwegian kroner, and in October, the value passed NOK 100 billion for the year. However, much of the increase in value can be attributed to a weaker Norwegian krone. Measured in euros, the export value of salmon has only increased by 4 per cent so far this year," explained the Norwegian Seafood Council CEO.

As mentioned, salmon accounted for 68% of the total value of Norway's seafood exports in October, which is a growth of 22% compared to 2022. The country exported 138,530 tonnes of salmon worth NOK 12.5 billion. Moreover, there was a growth in the volume of 6 %, with Poland, France, and Denmark being the biggest markets for Norwegian salmon last month.

NSC seafood analyst Paul T. Aandahl explained Poland's leadership in both value and volume of salmon exports by linking it to increased processing in the lead-up to the Christmas sale. "The reason is that processing, especially for smoked salmon, increases in the run-up to the Christmas sales. Even though the price measured in euros is above last year's level," he claimed.

If Poland and Denmark are transit countries for Norwegian salmon, its third fastest growing market in October, Italy, is nevertheless a destination country where, despite inflation and high prices, demand remains strong. "Salmon has a large shelf space in the grocery store compared to other seafood," said Tom-Jørgen Gangsø, NSC's envoy to Italy. "In addition, there has been a large increase in the number of restaurants with salmon on the menu in recent years. We see that, among other things, in the increase in pokè restaurants."

Fresh-farmed cod double in value and volume

Denmark, Spain, and the Netherlands were the main destination markets for Norwegian fresh cod in October 2023, which, nevertheless, has not been the best for fresh cod in Norway. According to the NSC report, the country exported 1,870 tons worth NOK 118 million last month. This is a 9% decrease compared to the same month 2022, and export volume also fell by 9%. However, there is one fact worth noting. The export volume of farmed cod continues to increase.

Almost half of the export value of fresh cod in October, up to 44%, was farmed cod. In total, 890 tons of fresh-farmed cod were exported, worth NOK 52 million. This is more than double both in value and volume compared to 2022. Spain was the largest destination country for farmed cod in October, with an export volume of over 300 tons. "The Spanish love fresh Norwegian cod and are our biggest cod market," explained the new NSC's envoy to Spain, Tore Holvik. "It is gratifying that the export of fresh cod to Spain also continues outside the flounder season." Just what farmed cod producers are looking for.

Compared to the stupendous figures for farmed cod, the export volume of wild-caught fresh cod stood at 980 tons, worth NOK 66 million. This represents a decrease of 42% in volume and 38% in value. This decrease was affected by several factors, although Eivind Hestvik Brækkan, seafood analyst at the NSC highlights one over the others. "The export of wild-caught fresh cod is falling in line with lower quotas and landings," he explained. Over 300 tonnes, over 80% of that wild-caught cod ended up in the transit country Denmark.

The same was for frozen cod, which fell by NOK 27 million in value, or 10%, compared to October last year, and by 7% in export volume. Although China - followed by Poland and the UK - was the largest destination country, following the trend throughout 2023, the volume continued to fall. It was 16% less than in the same month last year and marked the lowest share of exports to China in 15 years. "So far this year, only 17 per cent of frozen cod exports have gone to China. We have to go back to 2008 to find a lower market share," said Eivind Hestvik Brækkan.

Other strong species in October: herring, king crab, shrimp and mackerel

Regarding the rest of the species, the Norwegian Seafood Council report highlights the positive evolution of the value of herring, which, despite a 20% decrease in volume, increased its exports by 5% compared to October 2022. The NSC notes that, from mid-month onwards, there was good fishing, and that this reduction in export volume is mainly due to the shift from frozen whole herring to fillet. Lower fishing quotas this year compared to last year and an even lower NVG herring quota next year, along with a weak krone, contributed to a high level of export prices.

Another species with a very good export performance during October was the king crab. Norway exported 235 tons of king crab, worth NOK 125 million in October. This represents a 113% increase in volume and a 61% increase in value. The U.S., Vietnam, and Hong Kong SAR were its biggest markets. "Despite the increased supply of Russian king crab in Asia and the reopening of fishing for red king crab in Alaska, October was a strong export month for Norwegian king crab," said Josefine Voraa, Manager for Shellfish with the Norwegian Seafood Council.

It was also a good month for Norwegian prawns. 1,928 tons were exported, 32% more than last year, worth NOK 118 million, up 12% compared to October 2022. The UK, where this month was the strongest of the year for frozen peeled prawns, Sweden, and The Netherlands were its largest destination markets, the latter also showing the highest increase in value, although the reason has a kind of catch. "The main reason is that in October this year, 201 tonnes of frozen, cooked shell prawn went to the Netherlands, compared to nothing last year," said Josefine Voraa.

Finally, there was also growth in volume, up 45%, and value, up 25%, for mackerel. After poor fishing in the Norwegian zone in September, fishing picked up when Norwegian vessels began fishing in the UK zone in October. The good volume and record average price of mackerel resulted in a record value of exports in a single month. Japan, South Korea, and China were its main export markets. Moreover, the NSC report highlights the continuing trend of increasing direct exports to Japan, as well as increasing exports for processing to Vietnam rather than China.

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