Norway feeling pressure from Asian aquaculture

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
7 September 2007, at 1:00am

NORWAY - Farmed fish from Asia could provide Norwegian fish with tough competition in the European market place and so Norway's industry must focus on better market analysis and new product development, says the Norwegian Institute of Fisheries and Aquaculture (Fiskeriforskning).

A recently published report by Fiskeriforskning says that a large number of European frozen fish producers are now launching products with pangasius (Vietnamese pangasius catfish), and that several new products are featuring on the supermarket shelves.

Sales of skinless and boneless pangasius fillets are rising rapidly in Europe. The fish is sold as frozen fillets to the EU and it is a potential competitor for Norwegian white fish products such as cod, saithe, haddock, redfish and Greenland halibut.

Production of pangasius is expected to reach in the region of one million tonnes in 2010. Imports are increasing rapidly and reached approximately 130,000 tonnes in 2006. Russia imported more than 40,000 tonnes. Norwegian products have not so far felt the effect of these imports, although this is probably because the increase in imports from Vietnam has coincided with the increase in demand for seafood in the EU.

Norwegian fish producers may see greater competition in the frozen consumer pack products market - for example breaded fish, where species does not necessarily influence consumer choice.

There is, however, continued uncertainty with regard to the effect and consequences of the increase in imports of new species. If consumption falls, while at the same the market is flooded with cheap fish from Vietnam, this could have serious negative consequences for the Norwegian frozen fish industry.

The tropical fish, tilapia, is also a potential competitor. The consumption of this species is growing in the USA, although it is still a relatively unknown species, with a relatively modest market share in Europe. However, the market is likely to grow.

Fiskeriforskning's report points out that the Norwegian fisheries and aquaculture industries are well equipped to meet the challenge of increasing competition from new species. One key advantage is the short distance Norwegian products have to travel to mainland European markets. This offers potential to develop the fresh fish market, which usually commands better prices.

Norway also has a well-established, traditional market for products such as clipfish, salted fish and stockfish. These specialities are expected to have continued growth in premium markets.