THE salmon industry faced a still uncertain outlook this week as it entered the second half of the calendar year.
It was a mixed and confused picture for producers after the two month long prices see-saw showed another upturn, but dampened by the news that sales to China had hit the buffers despite assurances that salmon or seafood in general was not responsible for a new Covid-19 outbreak in Beijing.
Six weeks ago the sector appeared to be weathering the Covid storm well as prices started to rise, only to show a sharp drop half-way through June. Now they are starting to rise again probably on the back of increased demand from Europe where restaurants are starting to re-open. The US market is also showing resilience. In Norway 5kg fresh salmon was averaging NOK 60 per kilo and 6kg fish up to NOK 64.
But the Chinese appear to have lost their appetite for fish, with the Norwegian Seafood Council reporting that exports of fresh salmon fell by 94 per cent last week. A more up-to-date picture will become clear in the next few days when the Seafood Council publishes the June export figures, but the underlying trend is certainly down.
It was what many salmon producers had feared. Once a commodity becomes the subject of a food scare the mud sticks no matter that it is untrue or how many denials are issued. The public is also jittery. It should also be noted that while China is a growing destination for producers in Norway, Scotland and others, overall exports in percentage terms are quite small. Europe and the United States remain by far the largest and most lucrative markets.
The news agency Reuters reports that European exporters – and that must include Scotland – are ‘feeling the pinch’ as supermarkets cut salmon sales, while China’s Alibaba, the world’s largest internet retail platform, has also reduced imports.
Victoria Braathen, the Seafood Council’s fisheries envoy to China, said:
‘The sharp fall in weekly salmon exports to China must be seen in light of the recent development of Covid-19 in Beijing and the effects this has had on salmon trade and demand. Last week, the Chinese authorities ruled that salmon is not the source of the outbreak, and we can say that the situation is clearer. At the same time, it is too early to say what effects the new outbreak of Covid-19 will have on the demand for fresh salmon going forward.’
‘As the situation gradually normalises, we have great faith in the Chinese seafood market and its further potential for Norwegian salmon.’