Salmon industry booms despite concerns

By Sean Roach

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Salmon, Norway, Aquaculture

Processors are using more and more Norwegian and Chilean farmed
salmon, as stocks of the wild version of the fish plunge worldwide.

Meanwhile the EU and US are looking to lower catches of wild salmon or possibly place restrictions on imports in order to curb a steep decline in stocks worldwide.

If adopted the policies could reduce the domestic supply and result in processors having to look more and more for imports from non-EU countries such as Chile.

Figures released by EuroFish indicate that markets in the EU, US and Japan will remain lucrative despite supply fears worldwide.

Norwegian and Chilean salmon producers have posted record profits for the first four months of 2006, setting a new market high for fresh and frozen farmed salmon.

France is the largest importer of salmon in the EU, with an average 35,000 tonnes imported from January - April in 2006, a seven per cent increase from 2005's four month period.

Coupled with price hikes and an increasing demand, France's fresh salmon import value rose 24 per cent arriving at €152.7m for the first four months.

The Germans outdid the French in terms of overall import value, paying a total of €165m due to a 15 per cent four-month price increase in that market.

A majority of the German and French supply comes from Norway. This import pattern remained consistent despite an EU decision in January to impose a €2.80/kg minimum price on imported Norway farmed salmon.

The measure was passed to prevent flooding of European markets with cheap Norwegian salmon and to protect Scottish and Irish fisheries.

The Norwegians have lodged a complaint with the WTO and a dispute panel was formed in June of this year - the disagreement remains undecided.

The EU decision directly affects the largest exporter of fresh salmon, Norway's Pan Fish, which set a goal to be the cheapest supplier of salmon around the world.

The Norwegians were bested by the Chilean producers in the frozen market.

Chilean frozen salmon filet exports outdid the Norwegians in both French and German markets exporting 8,462 tonnes (€14 mn) and 4,778 tonnes (€26.5 mn) respectively.

In 2005 Chilean salmon exports raked in €1.36 bn and the trade association SalmonChile expects the value will increase to €1.6 bn by the end of 2006.

The first two months of 2006 showed 23% rise in the export value of Chilean salmon and trout (€304 mn) compared to the same period in 2005.

A further indication of the increasing value of Chilean fresh fillet salmon is the decline in volume to the US by 22% from January to April, however during the same time the export value rose 19%.

In a related report, Norway's Intrafish found that producers were struggling to keep up with worldwide consumer demands for salmon. Intrafish says a shortage of 1,000,000 tonnes of fish meal, food fed to farm-raised salmon, is keeping down the amount of farmed salmon on the market.

Fishmeal, which has exceeded €1,265 per tonne this year, is up €790 from a year ago.

Price hikes and shortages are being blamed on an increasing Chinese demand for feed and problems in supply from South America.

It takes about 64 oz of ground up wild fish meal to generate 16 oz of farmed salmon.

Overall, reports show that farmed Atlantic salmon has reached record levels, however, Eurofish believes a stabilization in the market will occur by the end of this year.

A stabilization of the market will not adversely affect profit levels for producers.

The value increase during the four month period guarantees considerable profits are to be made despite fluctuations in demand and supply.

Related topics: Processing & Packaging

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