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Norwegian top execs see steep increase in salmon exports to China

Asia continues to be a top priority for Norway, as China resumes imports and southeast Asian countries pay higher prices for the product. 

Top Norwegian salmon farming execs gathered at the Danske Bank seminar last week to discuss the opportunities and developments in the industry.

Ola Bratvoll, COO of sales and marketing at Marine Harvest, Sverre Soraa, general manager of Coast Seafood, Henning Beltestad, CEO of Leroy Seafood, and Bjol Olvik, sales director at Nova Sea, sat on a panel to discuss the opportunities that are opening in the Chinese market for salmon in the coming years.

Bratvoll and Soraa said China will bring in about 250,000 metric tons of salmon in 2022, a very optimistic figure compared with estimations made by Beltestad, who said China will import around 200,000 metric tons of salmon, and Olvik, who said imports would hit 80,000 metric tons in 2022.

Despite differences in the predictions, all producers agreed that China is opening up for Norwegian exports, and countries in southeast Asia are increasingly willing to pay higher prices for the product.

Beltestad said he sees interesting opportunities for development in many parts of the world, especially in southeast Asia and the United States.

“We have underestimated the market’s willingness to pay for salmon. I think that anyone who has followed this market is surprised by how much the market is willing to pay,” he said.

Bratvoll agreed on the potential of those markets, and predicted higher prices and a continuity of the sushi industry.

“Sushi has been around longer than jeans, so I have faith in this market in the future as well,” he said.

“And there is a great potential in the United States, they eat around 1.3 kg of seafood a year per capita, while in Europe we eat in excess of two kg per capita, I do not see any reason why one in the US doesn’t eat as much as Europeans do,” he said.

“There is a high willingness to pay in several markets in Asia, and we have high expectations for the new markets in the United States, including pre-packed market.”

Per Sandberg, Norway’s minister of fisheries, opened the talks, with claims that “the world is not only hungry for Norwegian salmon and seafood, but also for Norwegian technology and knowledge on everything from equipment to management.

“We have put behind us a challenging year with both Brexit and an election of Donald Trump for president on one side, and China and market access on the other side,” he said.

“The biggest challenge is that we need to produce more seafood, the world will have out seafood and we have to produce more in the coming years.”

Speaking about China, Sandberg said it is an exciting market that is interested in building and investing in Norway.

Olvik said some customers are even “afraid” they are not getting enough fish.

“Buyers are more concerned about getting a hold of the fish than about prices, prices have gone up very much over the past years and it will take some time to adapt,” Olvik said.

Although he conceded prices of salmon are too high, he said he doesn’t have an answer as of what is the right price of salmon.

“After 28 years, I thought I would be in a good situation to consider prices, but I do not know, I feel like a beginner,” he said.

“I dare not comment on what the appropriate price for salmon is.”

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