CORONAVIRUS IMPACTING UPON NORWEGIAN SEAFOOD EXPORTS
Coronavirus impacting upon Norwegian seafood exports. The Norwegian Seafood Council has provided an update on how coronavirus is currently affecting the country’s seafood sector, which Fish Focus has reproduced below
NSC status update as of 20th March 2020
The Covid-19 pandemic is causing big changes in consumer behaviour as well as transport and logistics in many markets for Norwegian seafood. The HoReCa (Hotels/Restaurants/Catering) sector is particularly affected, whilst retail and delivery services are reporting growth as a result of many countries’ self-isolation and quarantining measures. A weaker Norwegian krone is counteracting some of the effects of lower market demand at present.
Demand for Norwegian seafood varies between markets, species and where Norwegian seafood is sold.
“Despite increase in retail sales in Europe, we expect lower demand for fish and seafood as a result of lower turnover. The lower demand will first hit species such as king crab, quality labelled skrei and prawns usually sold in restaurants. We have also been given indications that the increased insecurity in Europe means retail buyers look to limit the range of products in-store. This might also affect Norwegian seafood exports. Our country directors in the European markets are reporting several fresh fish counters closing down and prepacked fresh seafood often being out of stock,” says Paul Aandahl, seafood analyst at NSC.
Norway exported over 18 000 tons fresh whole salmon in week 11, an increase of 24 percent compared to the same time last year. We see the strongest growth in traditional processing markets for the EU market, such as Poland (+42%), Denmark (+93%) and Lithuania (+141%).
“The effects we have seen on export of fresh salmon in some markets as a result of the virus outbreak so far, will continue to spread other markets as the pandemic evolves. The global salmon market will have to manage increased transport costs, changed consumption patterns and unpredictable prices,” says Aandahl.
The main cod season (Skrei season) runs from January to April. Between 30 and 40 percent of fresh whole cod volumes are exported during these four months.
“99 percent of Norwegian cod exports goes to fresh consumption of processing in Europe. Large parts of the fresh cod category has fallen away with increased restrictions in several European markets. We are well into the season, so the consequences are not as dramatic as they could have been if the Corona situation had happened earlier in the winter. Nonetheless, large parties of cod will now go to other uses, such as salting and drying,” says Ingrid Kristine Pettersen, seafood analyst at NSC.
“Reduced demand will lead to lower prices in the markets. We can already see this in the stats for fresh cod exports in week 11,” says Pettersen.
“Frozen products are more suitable for storing. In several markets we now see a shift from fresh to frozen fish, something we also saw in China earlier in the year. Products like clipfish and stockfish also have the advantage that they can be stored for longer periods of time without cooling. This is seen as a positive in a marketplace where people shop more infrequently,” Pettersen says.
“Frozen, whole whitefish is primarily sold to processing industry in Eastern Europe and China. In week 11 we saw increased exports of frozen whole cod,” says Pettersen.
France imposed strict measures to slow down the spread of the Corona virus this week. People are required to stay at home and as much as possible avoid contact with others, with the exception of people working in sectors of critical importance, such as healthcare and security. Schools, parks, theatres and restaurants are all closed.
“Grocery shops are open, but most fresh food counters are shutting down in a bid to avoid spreading the virus. This leads to an expectation of increased sales of prepacked seafood products. Traditional markets remain open, but people are advised to keep safe distance and physical barriers are in place to ensure people cannot get too close to the foods on offer, says Trine Horne, NSC country director in France.
“France is the third largest market for Norwegian seafood and has been the biggest growth market for Norwegian salmon so far this year.”
Spanish society more or less closed this week, and only grocery stores and pharmacies are allowed to stay open.
“The total seafood export to Spain is expected to remain relatively stable for some time still. As in many other markets we see growth in sales of prepacked seafood,” says Bjørn-Erik Stabell, NSC country director in Spain.
The Spanish government have issued guarantees that households should have access to fresh groceries in the stores. This means sales of frozen foods have not increased significantly and is also linked to most Spanish not having much freezer capacity in their homes.
“Spain primarily being a fresh fish market, we don’t see much growth in the frozen segment. It is expected that prepacked fresh seafood and take-away will perform well in this period,” says Stabell.
Norway has exported about 15 500 tons of seafood to Spain in the first two months of 2020, valued at 940 million NOK.
Sweden is the market which in many ways “goes against the current” with regards to restrictions and government measures to prevent spread of the virus. So far, government focus has been on increased hand hygiene, but also in this market there is a marked decline in restaurant trade and many consumers are worried about the future.
“The frozen food sections in stores are being raided by consumers who are buying a few more packs than usual,” says Sigmund Bjørgo, NSC country director in Sweden.
The big question remains if retail can compensate for reduced restaurant sales of Norwegian seafood.
Norwegian fresh salmon exports to the US market was down 4 percent in week 11 (379 tons), compared to the same time last year. Export of fresh salmon fillet increased by 4 percent to 426 tons. The US has developed into an important market for Norwegian trout in recent years, and in week 11 178 tons of fresh whole trout was sold to the USA, up 122 percent compared to the same week last year.
Export of fresh whole salmon went from 149 tons in week 10 to 217 tons in week 11. For week 10 that is a decrease of 51 percent on last year, and for week 11 the decrease was 37 percent.
For week 11 fresh whole salmon exports were down 41 percent to 708 tons compared with the same week last year.