Norwegian salmon prices are falling across all weight categories, with the largest fish seeing the biggest declines.

Salmon prices are being dragged down by the wide availability of low-grade production fish, suppliers told IntraFish on Friday.

The largest fish of 6-plus kilos have seen a sharp drop in prices, one exporter told IntraFish.

"What we see is that 6-plus [fish] is at best the same price as flat 5 kilos, but it should have been down to the 3-4 level," said the exporter.

He has been able to buy from a producer in the north of Norway for NOK 102 (€8.80/$9.60) for 3-4 kilo fish.

Another exporter further south in Norway reported a similar price drop for larger salmon.

What is production fish?
  • Norwegian farmed salmon is graded by the industry itself, according to a joint industry standard (NBS 10-01) from 1999.
  • The classes are superior, ordinary and production. The vast majority of the fish, typically over 90 percent, is superior. The proportion may vary somewhat from season to season, and country to country.
  • There are requirements for fish in each class based on color, spots, wounds, firmness, damage and shape.
  • The description of superior is "a first-class product with properties that make it suitable for all purposes. The product is without significant defects, damage or defects and has a positive overall impression."
  • The lowest quality fish, production, cannot be exported out of Norway until it is corrected. Typical signs of this can be sexual maturation, wounds, deformities or treatment errors.
  • There is no official or independent third-party that assesses the fish (apart from in special cases where the Norwegian Food Safety Authority can stop the export of production fish).
Source: Sources: NBS 10–01 and industry players.

"For large fish, prices were extremely low last week, and should come down now too, although it is still high. I would bet just under NOK 100 (€8.70/$9.40) for 6-plus kilos," he said.

The exporter noted prices of NOK 100 (€8.70/$9.40) for 3–4 kilo fish, highlighting a weak market for air-freighted salmon in particular.

Dirty market

Currently there is an imbalance between production fish filleted in Norway, which competes at a completely different level than premium grade fish, the exporter said.

Lower-quality salmon are referred to as production fish and must be first be processed in Norway before they can be shipped to foreign buyers, although this could change after the European Commission's trade department, DG Trade, this week said Norway's export ban on low-grade salmon amounts to a trade barrier.

Typically, less than 10 percent of the salmon is production fish, but in the winter the proportion may be higher due to winter sores, among other things. Wounds and unsightly parts are removed for export.

In mid-February, however, 36.6 percent of all fish were categorized as production fish. The record-high proportion of production fish on the wider market is seen as a problem for the Norwegian industry's reputation and overall pricing.

"No one will buy superior salmon for €10 ($10.90) when you can get fillets for the same price," said the exporter. "We cannot compete with that until there is a price drop for superior."

He thinks the price must drop by NOK 10 (€0.87/$0.94), at least for premium fish, so that there will be a little more balance in the prices.

A third exporter agrees. "Prices are down, but certainly not down enough to make money. It's a dirty market with lousy demand," he said.

Sources told IntraFish of the following prices heading into next week:

  • 3–4 kg: NOK 98 (€8.50/$9.20) to NOK 103 (€8.90/$9.70)
  • 4–5 kg: NOK 105 (€9.10/$9.90) to NOK 109 (€9.40/$10.30)
  • 5+ kg: NOK 108 (€9.40/$10.20) to NOK 112 (€9.70/$10.60)
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