DESPITE a weak performance in September, Norwegian white fish exports so far this year have reached new heights with growth, primarily due to increased volumes and increased value.
During the first nine months of 2017, Norway sold 349,000 tonnes of cod, saithe, haddock and other white fish for NOK 11.3 billion to various overseas markets.
This is an increase of nine per cent measured in both volume and value. The biggest increase is for frozen whole white fish and whole cut fish.
However, September proved to be an exception, with the value of cod, haddock and other white fish down by six per cent or NOK 76 million on 2016. The total value for the month was NOK 1.2 billion.
But a marked fall in the value of sterling following the Brexit crisis has made fish much more expensive for British consumers, helping to push up the cost of living.
The Seafood Council said the UK is the largest market for frozen fillet products of both cod and haddock and a weakened UK pound as a result of Brexit has affected the markets. So far this year, the price of frozen cod fillet from Norway to the UK has risen by six per cent when priced in kroners, while the price has increased by 18 per cent or threefold when measured in sterling.
On the overall white fish picture, Ingrid Kristine Pettersen, analyst at the Norwegian Seafood Council, explained: ‘Normally, Christmas exports of dried fish to Italy and cut fish to Portugal and Brazil start in the autumn.
‘However, there was a decline of these products in September, with the exception of cut fish to Brazil.
‘In the last quarter of the year, exports of whole cut fish and frozen whole white fish will be the biggest value drivers in the whitefish category.’
She believed that frozen whole white fish will be the largest product in this category, driven by increased demand from China, but the longer term prospect for fillets also looked promising.
And she added there was also a possibility of reduced cod quotes in future years which would lead to pricing pressures.
Norway has exported 95,000 tonnes of fresh white fish products worth NOK 2.8 billion so far this year, up by two per cent in volume and five per cent in value.
Of that, cod made up for 65,000 tonnes worth NOK 2 billion, an increase of ten per cent on the first nine months last year.
Frozen fish exports totalled 153,000 tonnes worth NOK 4 billion, a value rise of 12 per cent and a volume rise of 11 per cent.
Sigmund Bjørgo at the Norwegian Fisheries Council office in China said: ‘Traditionally, most of the frozen whole white fish exported to China has been filleted and sent back to Europe, but it is gratifying to see that a growing volume of Norwegian cod is now being consumed in China.’