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Norway’s seafood export value declines for first time in three years

Norway’s seafood export value declined in Q1 2024, ending a three year streak of year-over-year export value records.

According to the Norwegian Seafood Council (NSC), Norway exported seafood worth NOK 40.2 billion (USD 3.7 billion, EUR 3.4 billion) in the first quarter of 2024, a decrease of NOK 1.2 billion (USD 112 million, EUR 103 million), or 3 percent, compared to the same period of 2023. That decrease in value was partially related to changes in the exchange rate; conversely, the weak Norwegian krone was the main driver of value growth in Q1 2023.

“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,” NSC CEO Christian Chramer said. “The result was an overall decline in the value of seafood exports in the first quarter.”

The NSC said that export values increased year over year in January and February, but softer salmon prices and an early Easter resulted in a difficult March that ended the three-year growth streak.

“While the price of salmon increased sharply in March last year, we have not seen a similar development in the same month this year,” Chramer said.

Exports in March 2024 decreased to NOK 13.6 billion (USD 1.2 billion, EUR 1.1 billion), a drop of NOK 2.2 billion (USD 206 million, EUR 190 million), or 14 percent, over the same month of 2023.

Chramer said another big cause of the decline in value was a decline in export volumes – both for farmed salmon and wild-caught fisheries. Multiple key wild-caught species such as cod, herring, mackerel, and king crab had quota cuts in the period.

“Reduced quotas are an important measure to ensure that fisheries resources remain sustainable but, at the same time, give Norway less seafood to export," Chramer said.

Slowing food inflation has also added to the value declines, he said.

“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 10 percent in the last 12 months,” Chramer said.

Despite the overall declines, Norway’s seafood exports to the European Union increased in value by 1 percent, and the bloc was once again the largest market for the country’s exports. Norway sent NOK 23 billion (USD 2.1 billion, EUR 1.9 billion) worth of seafood to the E.U. in Q1 2024.

The country also sent seafood to more countries in Q1 2024 than in the same period last year. NSC said Norway sent seafood to 137 different countries – seven more than in 2023.

By species, Norway’s farmed salmon exports dropped by both value and volume in Q1 2024. The country exported 246,560 metric tons (MT) of salmon in Q1 2024, earning NOK 27.9 billion (USD 2.6 million, EUR 2.4 billion) – a drop in volume of 6 percent and a drop in value of NOK 709 million (USD 66 million, EUR 61 million), or 2 percent, compared to Q1 2023.

“The fall in value for salmon is primarily due to reduced production and lower harvest volumes,” NSC Seafood Analyst Paul Aandahl said. “This is partly due to lower sea temperatures compared with the same period last year. Increased exports of fillets at the expense of whole fish also contributed to the fall in volume."

A significant portion of the decrease in salmon export value came in March, with Norway sending lower volumes that were also worth less year over year. Part of that decline in value was a result of the species achieving record prices during March 2023.

The country exported 81,900 MT of salmon worth NOK 9.3 billion (USD 873 million, EUR 803 million), which represent declines of 12 percent and 16 percent, respectively.

One bright spot in the quarter was trout. The country exported 13,942 MT of trout in Q1 2024, marking a 39 percent increase compared to the same period of 2023. Those exports achieved a value of NOK 1.4 billion (USD 131 million, EUR 120 million), an increase of NOK 273 million (USD 25 million, EUR 23 million), or 25 percent.

Aandahl attributed the increase to companies increasingly focusing on the species.

“While there was growth for fresh fillets for salmon, it is fresh whole fish that is increasing within the trout category," he said.

Another species that defied the negative trends was snow crab. Norway exported 4,511 MT of snow crab in Q1 2024, a 59 percent increase by volume compared to the same period in 2023. Those exports achieved a value of NOK 495 million (USD 46 million, EUR 42 million), a year-over-year increase of NOK 200 million (USD 18 million, EUR 17 million), or 68 percent. The increases made it the best-ever quarter for Norwegian snow crab exports.

Most other wild-caught species did not fare as well. Norway’s fresh cod exports fell by volume and value in the quarter, NSC said. The country exported 18,454 MT of fresh cod in Q1 2024, a decline of 19 percent compared to 2023. That total was also the lowest volume in over a decade.

"We have to go back to 2012 to find a lower export volume of fresh wild cod in a first quarter," NSC Seafood Analyst Eivind Hestvik Brækkan said.

By value, fresh cod exports earned NOK 1.2 billion (USD 112 million, EUR 103 million) in Q1 2024, a decline of NOK 181 million (USD 16 million, EUR 15 million), or 13 percent, compared to the same period of 2023.

Farmed cod once again made up a significant portion of fresh cod exports out of Norway, and fresh farmed cod exports reached 3,250 MT – an increase of 180 MT, or 6 percent, year over year. By value, fresh farmed cod exports reached NOK 180 million (USD 16 million, EUR 15 million), an increase of 23 percent.

"In terms of value, farmed cod accounted for 15 percent of fresh cod exports in the first quarter," Brækkan said.


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