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Kontali: Mixed outlook for global whitefish supply

More than 18 million tons of whitefish were brought to market last year.

Overall whitefish supply is projected to grow by around 2.5 percent in the coming year, nearly all of the growth a result of aquaculture growth production, according to Ragnar Nystøyl, CEO of research group Kontali.

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Speaking at the North Atlantic Seafood Forum (NASF) in Bergen, Norway, last week, he said more than18 million metric tons of whitefish were brought to market last year -- a 2 million metric ton increase in a period of just four years.

Of that volume, around 1.5 million metric tons was from the farmed sector. It was groundfish that gave last year its biggest volume growth -- hake, haddock and Alaska pollock.

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The Alaska pollock industry continues to struggle on price levels, with market prices for frozen fillets to EU from February to the year prior showing a decline. Over the course of four years, prices are down 6 percent in US dollar terms.

Cod continues to fetch remarkable price premiums compared with earlier years, both in Iceland and in Norway.

Farmed whitefish production in 2016 was a mixed bag. While the total rose by more than 50,000 metric tons, tilapia showed volume growth, while pangasius fell.

Tilapia’s gain, however, was not in the traditional US market. Import volume declined by its highest level in a single year ever last year -- falling 66,000 metric tons.

 The US now accounts for just 10 percent of global tilapia production, Nystøyl noted.

On the other side of the ocean, it’s pangasius facing a consumption decline. Volumes into Europe will soon fall below 100,000 metric tons, and that certainly won’t be helped by recent controversies over its health and quality.

The seabass and bream supply appears to be on the rise for 2017, Kontali said.

Expect the cod supply to be on a bit of a roller coaster. While in Norway the quota remains the same, poor weather could impact harvesting.

Iceland, where the strike kept much of the quota from being collected, is now pushing to catch up. Both Norway and Iceland are behind on quota, and whether or not they’ll reach the finish line remains to be seen.

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This article was first published in our NASF 2017 blog. Click here to see the full IntraFish coverage from the event.

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