Fish farmers nervously await new tax proposals

Seafood Norway CEO Geir Ove Ystmark

NORWAY’S salmon and trout farmers are anxiously awaiting the results of an inquiry into future taxation plans for the industry which are expected shortly.

An independent committee, chaired by economics professor Karen Helene Ulltveit-Moe and set up in 2018, is thought to be ready to present a new tax model for aquaculture, and possibly the catching sector too.

And already there are fears that companies may be hit hard.

There is also speculation in the Norwegian press that the Aquaculture Fund, which has paid out hundreds of millions of kroner to fish farming communities in return for the granting of licences, may be scrapped and replaced by payments from the central state.

Geir Ove Ystmark, head of the fishing and aquaculture employers body Seafood Norway, said he fears that the Marine Tax Committee will propose tax streamlining measures similar to those that recently hit the oil and power industry.

This tax scheme brought strong criticism from the industry and those parts of the country where power facilities are based.

Ystmark warned that while power stations and the like are difficult to move to countries with a lower tax burden, this is not the case for aquaculture.

‘If aquaculture is taxed too highly, businesses will move out,’ he said, citing the case of the Norwegian company Vikings Label, which plans to build an aquaculture plant in the Middle East.

There is no doubt that politicians have cast envious eyes on the high profits from fish farming over the past few years, although these have slowed down recently due the fall in salmon prices and high costs involved dealing with problems like salmon lice and algae.

One news headline in Norway said, somewhat crudely: ‘After the power tax bombshell, fish farmers should tremble in their pants.’

The industry may not have long to wait to discover if that headline proves to be correct or just hype.