Norwegian salmon producers are in the midst of their best year ever, despite the global finance crisis. Demand is strong in both the US and Europe, and high prices mean 2009 is shaping up as a record-breaking year for both export quantity and value.
The value of salmon exports was up 29 percent through the first six months of this year, to a record NOK 10.7 billion (about USD 1.5 billion). Some salmon farmers are earning four times what they earned last year, which was also a good year, and export quantities to the US were up a whopping 189 percent just in the first quarter.
By the end of June, exports to the US had increased by 238 percent, to nearly 16,000 tons, not least because of problems at salmon producers and exporters in Chile, even though several are owned by Norwegian interests. Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv reported earlier this year that Chilean producers are now selling more frozen salmon to Asian customers, opening the market for fresh salmon to the US.
The French and Polish markets are also hungry for Norwegian salmon, and they’ve emerged as the most important for seafood producers, reports newspaper Aftenposten . Russia is also a major market for Norwegian seafood, while exports to Japan were up 29 percent to a value of NOK 460 million in the first half. Exports to Hong Kong and China were up more than 30 percent.
Seafood is Norway’s largest export industry after oil and gas, with farmed and wild fish shipped to more than 150 countries, according to the Norwegian Seafood Federation (Fiskeri- og handelsnæringens landsforening, FHL) . The federation has more than 500 member companies that collectively employ around 8,000 workers.
Norwegians themselves eat around 30,000 tons of salmon (called laks ) a year, making them among the highest per capita consumers of salmon in the world. At this time of year, expensive wild salmon from Norway’s rivers is appearing in some local fish stores, while the more common farmed salmon is a fixture on local barbecues.
The salmon boom, with prices up from NOK 22 per kilo last year to around NOK 39 now, has been good news for companies like Lerøy Seafood Group, Grieg Seafood and Marine Harvest. Jørgen Christiansen of Marine Harvest told newspaper Aftenposten that it’s not uncommon for salmon prices to swing widely from year to year, but Klaus Hatlebrekke, a fish analyst for DnB NOR Markets, thinks prices will remain at more than NOK 30 the rest of the year.
“We’re heading for the best year for Norwegian salmon ever,” Hatlebrekke said.