Norwegian seafood exports to China to expand this year as trade ties accelerate
Published: Feb 05, 2024 09:35 PM
Norwegian salmon sold at a supermarket in China. Photo: Courtesy of the Norwegian Seafood Council

Norwegian salmon sold at a supermarket in China. Photo: Courtesy of the Norwegian Seafood Council

Norwegian seafood exports to China are expected to show promising growth this year, with exports of salmon rising month-on-month in January amid booming demand ahead of the Chinese New Year holidays that start on February 10, relevant data showed. 

As the two countries celebrate the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations this year, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Norway Espen Barth Eide is visiting China from Monday to Wednesday. His visit sets even higher expectations for seafood trade, a key driver of bilateral trade.

Norway exported 184,000 tons of seafood worth 13.3 billion Norwegian kroner ($1.25 billion) in January. This was a rise of 5 percent from the year-earlier level, Andreas Thorud, the Norwegian Seafood Council (NSC) director for the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong, told the Global Times in an exclusive interview on Monday.

Of the total, exports to China stood at 11,320 tons and the export value reached 740 million kroner in January.

"Norwegian seafood exports to China in January displayed a very strong start of 2024 and we are confident that the appetite of Chinese consumers for imported seafood is set to increase this year," Thorud said.

Evolving trends like the development of e-commerce coupled with China's burgeoning home economy and consumers' ever-growing demand for high-quality and healthy diets has made Norwegian seafood a preferred choice for both upscale restaurants and everyday family meals, Thorud said.

In 2024, the NSC's focus will remain on promoting the country's core products - seafood - and meeting robust demand for high-quality seafood options among Chinese consumers, the Global Times learned from the NSC. 

Norway mainly ships four primary species of seafood to China - salmon, mackerel, Arctic cod and shellfish.

As the Spring Festival holidays draw near, a number of Chinese trade agencies have witnessed a robust growth in the sales of imported seafood.

"Our imports of Norwegian salmon saw a good rise in the past few weeks, a month-on-month increase of about 30 percent in terms of trade volume, and at least half came from Norway," Weng Qiang, a manager of Beijing-based seafood company Sunkfa Holding Group, told the Global Times on Monday. The company has been in the salmon business for many years.

The rise was driven by booming consumption ahead of the Chinese New Year, Weng added.

"Norwegian salmon offers not only good quality but is lower in terms of costs… and the shipping time for Norwegian salmon is about two days less than from Chile," Weng said, referring to how the Nordic country's seafood is gaining popularity in the market.

As a senior trader with Norway, Weng has good expectations for the ministerial visit when it comes to further unleashing the potential of trade. 
"It is hoped that the import quota of Norwegian salmon can be further relaxed," he said.

In terms of export value, the Chinese market ranked eighth in the global export market for Norwegian seafood and remained the largest market in Asia.

In 2023, Norway's seafood exports to China reached 158,909 tons, with a value of 8.54 billion kroner, a year-on-year increase of 18 percent, according to the NSC.

In addition to salmon, other types of seafood such as mackerel, arctic cod, shrimp, crab and shellfish are also gaining popularity in the Chinese market.

"As China's economy rebounds from the pandemic, we observe a promising recovery trajectory within the catering sector. This resurgence bodes well for the seafood industry, especially for high-quality imported seafood, suggesting a broadening of market opportunities for Norwegian seafood in the food service sector," Thorud said.

The visit of the Norwegian foreign minister serves as a positive example of this deepening relationship. "Tapping into this, we are looking forward to enhanced ties in the seafood trade and stronger mutual exchanges in aquaculture and fishing in the future," Thorud noted.

There is an anticipation of growth for Norwegian salmon imports this year as the nation's consumption capacity continues to recover, Cui He, president of the China Aquatic Products Processing and Marketing Alliance, told the Global Times on Monday.

"It is expected that this year's imports of Norwegian seafood in general would maintain the trend of last year," Cui said.