Norway is a leading exporter of Atlantic cod, accounting for approximately one-third of North Atlantic catch volumes in 2019. EU countries are the main recipients, comprising up to three-quarters of Norwegian cod export volumes in a typical year, which are primarily fresh cod exports. However, the Norwegian Seafood Council (NSC) reported a 15% year-on-year (y-o-y) drop in fresh cod exports in April to 7,300 tonnes. Consequently, fresh cod exports in the first four months of the year totalled 30,300 tonnes, down 10% on the corresponding period in the previous year. The dip in demand for fresh cod is directly attributed to the closure of the restaurant, hospitality and foodservice sector across Europe, which comprise the bulk of fresh fish demand.
However, weak volume sales are being partially offset by higher value sales. The Mintec average auction price of fresh Norwegian Atlantic cod in the first four months of the year increased by 10% to NOK24/kg, compared to NOK 21.9/kg for the same period in 2019. This can be largely explained by the weakening value of the NOK, which depreciated by 10% against the EUR during the period, while the EUR value of auctioned cod fell by just 1%.
However, while fresh sales have taken a hit, European demand for pre-packed produce has spiked. Indeed, European import volumes of Norwegian dried and salted cod products increased by 11% y-o-y in Q1 2020, which is likely due to the rise in home consumption, attributable to the coronavirus pandemic. Pre-packed and ‘closed’ packs may be seen as more hygienic and less of a contamination risk than fresh produce. Additionally, longer shelf lives and comparative ease-of-storage likely support the trend. Thus, higher y-o-y values of packaged and dried cod may partially offset declining sales of fresh cod.