Norway: Increase in imports leads to seafood job losses –

Norway: Increase in imports leads to seafood job losses Published:  16 May, 2008

NEW figures show that the increasing trend towards importing seafood is resulting in a steady drop in the number of Norwegians employed in fish processing.

In 2007, total Norwegian seafood consumption was 104,000 tonnes. Norway imported 38,000 tonnes of processed seafood products, an increase of 46 percent on 1996 figures.

Fish processing plants no longer need to be located near the fishing grounds or fish farms. Cheap labour or the protection of tariff walls can be a decisive factor for where processing takes place, says research institue Nofima.

Norway has long had higher labour costs than its competitors, and in recent years these have risen sharply compared to other European countries.

In comparison to new EU member countries and countries outside the EU, labour costs in Norway are exceptionally high.

From 1993 to 2006, production of stockfish, saltfish and clipfish showed the greatest profitability. At the same time, production of filleted white fish suffered significant losses.

A clear consequence of this development is that the fishery industry employs far fewer today than it did a few years ago. In 2000, around 14,000 were employed in the fishery industry, compared to around 10,000 in 2006. Job reductions have been strongest in the production of white fish, particularly in Finnmark where the fillet industry was strongest.

The European Union wants to stimulate and protect its own fishery industry. Above all, this affects salmon, particularly smoked salmon. This explains the lower proportion of processed salmon in the export statistics, Nofima says.

A strong Norwegian krone (NOK) also contributed to worsen the competitive situation for the Norwegian processing industry at the start of the decade. Companies with marginal profitability experienced even more problems. A continuing strong NOK reduces the competitive strength of the Norwegian fish processing industry.

Another challenge is that there are now fewer but larger players in the grocery trade both in Norway and abroad. As a consequence, Norwegian seafood suppliers meet customers in the export market demanding a more competitive process, a greater product range and better security of supply.

The increased import of seafood products to Norway indicates the overseas seafood suppliers are better equipped to handle these demands even on its domestic market, the researchers add.

The project was commissioned by the Norwegian Seafood Association and the Fishery and Aquaculture Industry Research Fund. is published by Special Publications. Special Publications also publish FISHupdate magazine, Fish Farmer, the Fish Industry Yearbook, the Scottish Seafood Processors Federation Diary, the Fish Farmer Handbook and a range of wallplanners.