Norway's "production fish" export ban is a trade barrier, says EU

Norwegian trade law bans the export of low-quality salmon with injuries or other defects, meaning the fish must be processed before it crosses the border.
Currently, under Norwegian trade law, salmon with injuries or defects must be processed within Norway's borders before export.

Currently, under Norwegian trade law, salmon with injuries or defects must be processed within Norway's borders before export.

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The European Commission has officially listed Norway's ban on the export of unprocessed "production fish" as a trade barrier.

A recently-updated notice on the EC trade barrier online database lists the Norwegian export ban under the category "Export prohibition and other quantitative restrictions", and states that: "Under Norwegian Regulation No. 844 on fish and fish products quality, Norwegian farmed salmon is sorted and marketed, in three quality categories: 'superior', 'ordinary' and 'production'." 

"Pursuant to Article 17 of the Regulation, salmon is placed in the lowest quality category (“production”) when the fish has wounds, malformations, treatment errors or similar minor defects."

"Salmon qualified under this quality category is prohibited by Norwegian law from being exported before these defects are corrected at Norwegian processing plants," the notice reads.

"Prodfisk" export ban also a bone of contention within Norway

The Norwegian trade regulation over low-grade salmon - so-called "prodfisk" - has been under increasing scrutiny in recent months, with some claiming the export ban represents a "protectionist" stance.

Norway's largest salmon producer, Mowi, requested an exemption to the ban in February, arguing that the level of production-grade fish was saturating Norwegian processors.

Mowi CEO Ivan Vindheim reportedly called the export ban a "competition-inhibiting and protectionist rule."

However, Robert H. Eriksson of trade body The Norwegian Seafood Association (Sjømatbedriftene) hit back at this claim, saying that Norway had sufficient processing capacity within its borders to handle the increased levels of production fish, and arguing that "This is not about protectionism, but about the reputation of Norwegian salmon in the market."

"What we are witnessing now is that more fish of poor quality end up in the market, and when you consider this in the context of the challenges and negative publicity that have circulated in the media over the past six months, it does not contribute to building increased trust in our industry, neither here at home nor abroad," Eriksson said, urging that the exemption request be denied.

Mowi's request was turned down by the Norwegian authorities, but the company has indicated it intends to appeal the decision.

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