The decline in the currency effect, a lower volume of salmon and reductions in wild catch quotas - such as that of mackerel, pictured here - meant that the value of exports of Norwegian seafood exports fell by 14% in March.

The decline in the currency effect, a lower volume of salmon and reductions in wild catch quotas - such as that of mackerel, pictured here - meant that the value of exports of Norwegian seafood exports fell by 14% in March.

Photo: Norwegian Seafood Council.

Norwegian seafood exports' value upward trend comes to an end

After three consecutive years of growth, the value of Norwegian seafood exports fell by 14% in March, dragged down by a decline in both the currency effect and the export volume of key species.

Norway exported seafood products worth NOK 40.200 million (EUR 3.469 million / USD 3.775 million) in Q1 2024, a decrease of NOK 1.200 million (EUR 103 million / USD 112 million) compared to the same period last year, according to the latest report from the Norwegian Seafood Council (NSC). Although talking in percentage value, this decrease is only 3%, the March results - with a decline of 14% - have meant that the Norwegian seafood exports' upward trend has come to an end.

The first quarter of the year was characterized by lower salmon volumes and several quota reductions on the wild catch side. Despite this, as had been the case in 2023 - the best value year ever for Norwegian seafood exports -, thanks to high prices and a weak Norwegian krone, the value of exports continued to rise in January and February. However, in March, the currency effect diminished, and with it, the value of Norwegian seafood exports.

Value declines after three consecutive years of growth

As reported by WeAreAquaculture, in February 2024 Norway broke its seafood export value record again, marking three consecutive years of growth. The streak was broken in March when the value of exports fell NOK 2.200 million (EUR 189 million / USD 206 million), or 14%, compared to the same month last year. A decline that hides several factors.

High salmon prices and a weak Norwegian krone had been driving value growth for months in a scenario where volumes continued to fall. However, these trends appear to have come to an end, or at least come to a halt, in March, as Christian Chramer, CEO of the Norwegian Seafood Council, pointed out.

"Thanks to a weak Norwegian krone and high prices, export value grew in January and February. However, the currency effect declined in March, while there has been a drop in volume for several species in the first three months of the year. The result was an overall decline in the value of seafood exports in the first quarter," he explained.

"While the price of salmon increased sharply in March last year, we have not seen a similar development in the same month this year," he added. "At the same time, Easter was earlier this year, which meant that there were fewer working days in March this year than last year. Both factors affected the export value."

Lower catch quotas led to a decrease in volume

While the increase in the value of exports was a repeated trend in its monthly reports, the NSC had long warned that it was the currency effect rather than increased volumes that was helping these record growth figures. At the same time, the Norwegian Seafood Council kept pointing out that the reduction in catch quotas - especially for cod, herring, and mackerel - was starting to show in the volume of exports. Now, that decline extends to king crab as well. 

"In the first three months of the year, significantly lower volumes of cod, herring, mackerel, and king crab were landed than in the same period last year," said Christian Chramer. "Reduced quotas are an important measure to ensure that fisheries resources remain sustainable, but at the same time give Norway less seafood to export," he added.

Although some species maintain or slightly decrease their quotas, the fact is that, in general, fishing quotas will decrease for Norway in 2024. Nevertheless, like the NSC, the Norwegian Government also supports that "environmental considerations are so important that they must come first," as the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Cecilie Myrseth said regarding the aquaculture industry when setting Norway's salmon growth target for 2024.

Now, following news of the decline in seafood export performance, Minister Myrseth has made a statement in support of the strength of the sector. "Three consecutive years of export records clearly show that Norwegian seafood is sought after around the world," she said. "Even though we are now seeing a slight decline, there is no doubt that the seafood industry is doing well. It remains one of our largest and most important export industries."

EU market and quality brands remain a haven for export value

As mentioned above, in March the currency effect ceased to serve as a driver of value growth, but it was not the only economic cause of the decline. High global food inflation had also contributed to lifting Norwegian seafood exports to new heights in recent years. However, it has now slowed.

"According to the Food Price Index of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), there has been a fall in global food prices of over ten per cent in the last twelve months. Lower food prices have probably also contributed to curbing the price development of Norwegian seafood in the first quarter," explained the NSC CEO.

But it wasn't all bad news for Norwegian seafood exports in the first quarter of the year. In Q1 2024, Norway maintained Europe as its main destination market. It exported a total value of NOK 23 billion to the EU, and although this is only 1% more than in the same period in 2023, it is at least growing.

Además, a pesar del descenso de volúmenes en especies importantes como el salmón, cod, herring, mackerel, and king crab, en el Q1 2024, Noruega saw record values for the quality brands skrei, snow crab, and trout. "The volume for these three species is significantly higher than in previous years, which has helped to boost the export value," Christian Chramer said. "Among other things, this has meant that the value of snow crab exports in the first quarter was higher than king crab exports. This has only happened once before."

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