The average catch price of Norwegian Atlantic cod increased by 5% quarter-on-quarter for the quarter ending November 2020, to NOK 20.20/kg. The uptick is supported by supply bottlenecks and recently reported retail demand spikes for fresh and ready-to-eat whitefish products. The UK, an important destination for Norwegian whitefish, recorded robust year-on-year (y-o-y) imports of Norwegian frozen whole cod and frozen cod fillets in November, according to the Norwegian Seafood Council (NSC). The firm trade reported in November brought UK imports of frozen Norwegian cod to 65,100 tonnes for the first eleven months of 2020, roughly on par with the same period of the previous year.
Norwegian cod exporters are being helped by protracted negotiations between the UK and the EU to secure a trade deal before the UK departs the union on 31st December 2020. The UK imports 90% of its annual whitefish consumption needs from the EU, Norway and Iceland. Norway and the UK have already agreed to roll over existing preferential trade agreements through the next twelve-months, so the recent spike in cod trade likely reflects the need for UK importers to secure volumes before the Brexit transition period ends, after which imports from the EU may become significantly more expensive. There is also the possibility that UK supermarket demand for frozen fillets shot up in November, due to the month-long lockdown that ended 2nd December 2020. The closure of restaurants and other foodservice vendors would have fuelled substitution towards the retail sector and ready-to-eat cod meals.
Mintec expects that cod price bullishness will persist in the short-term the closer it gets to the end of the transition phase without a UK-EU deal on the table.