Norwegian salmon exports grew strongly last month, but low prices meant the country’s fish farmers were receiving less revenue than normal, the latest figures show.
They totalled 95,600 tonnes during February, a volume rise of 20%, but the value fell by 5% to NOK 5.4bn (£456m) compared to a year ago.
Poland, France and the United States were the main markets for export, but there was big growth in sales to China and Italy, the two countries hardest hit and among the first to shut down during the early days of the pandemic.
Norwegian Seafood Council analyst Paul T. Aandahl said: “Here, the fear of infection led to a fall in the demand for salmon even before the coronavirus was detected in the country.
“In February this year, it was precisely these two markets that showed the strongest growth in value for salmon exports.”
The Seafood Council’s seafood envoy to Italy, Trym Eidem, said growth was returning to that country because some of the restrictions around shops and restaurants were starting to be lifted.
Overall, Norway exported seafood worth NOK 8.7bn (£735m) in February. This represents a decline of NOK 482m (£40.7m), or 5%.
Seafood Council CEO Renate Larsen said: “Despite the fact that the seafood markets are still strongly affected by the corona pandemic, the value of seafood exports (last month) is the second highest February ever.
“This is partly due to the fact that record-high volumes of individual species such as salmon and herring were exported.”
She explained: “In February, the export value of most species fell, with the exception of king crab and herring, when we compare figures with the record-strong we had in February 2020.
“Then there were historically high prices for salmon and cod, but that was before the pandemic struck and reduced the sale of seafood to hotels and restaurants globally.
“It must be mentioned that the picture is nuanced and that there is still great uncertainty associated with future export development for individual species.”
Farmed trout exports dropped by 20% to 3,900 tonnes last month with the value also down by a similar figure to NOK 292m (£24.6m).
There was good growth (up 25%) in demand for fresh cod, which earned NOK 412m (£34.8m), but less so for frozen cod (down 19%) for which the UK is traditionally an important buyer. The February value was NOK 251m (£21m), down 34 per cent on a year ago.
Volume exports of shrimp (cold water prawns) were up slightly at 843 tonnes and worth NOK 66m (£5.5m), down 3%.