China salmon exports halted but “there’s not going to be a glut of salmon around in Europe”

Is the coronavirus going to affect the EU salmon market?

There’s been much reported China’s coronavirus- which now has its very own name – COVID-19.

To date, the virus has killed more than 1,300 people – infected many more, while rattling exports around the globe.

Like a rock
In terms of salmon, major processors in Europe – Poland, Italy and the Netherlands – say that order intakes have been greatly reduced. Footfall in restaurants in mainland visits, often drivers of salmon amongst the rising affluent Chinese middle class, are falling like a rock, hitting salmon demand.

So what’s the effect going to be in Europe? For example, Scottish salmon accounts for 8 per cent of all UK and drink exports to China. Last year, around 9,900 tonnes (to the tune of GBP 60 million) were sent.

The price slipped down EUR 2 in a month as the virus fear continued. Currently, the price is around EUR 6 – which is average but historically the price picks up in the run-up to Easter.

Prices are due to pick up soon.

Two leading German buyers and importers – Kanzow and Scottish Import Finefood – told SalmonBusiness that it was early to see any impact.

A spokesperson for Scottish Import Finefood, which was one of the first companies to promote Scottish salmon on the German market, said: “Bigger fish is down a bit. But with Scottish, we don’t see much availability, especially with the current weather, so I don’t know if this has anything to do much with China”.

“We know price is going down because of the virus, but we will see,” said a spokesperson from the 125-year-old major fish importer Kanzow.

Pierre Commere, Fishing Industry Executive Officer from the French organisation Adepale (Entreprises de Produits Alimentaires Elaborés/French Association of Elaborated Food Product Companies) said that its members, France’s eight biggest salmon smokers, had not (to date) reported any differences, in terms of price levels.

Dr Martin Jaffa Photo: Jack Gevertz

Lucrative exports
Salmon market specialist Dr Martin Jaffa told SalmonBusiness that he doesn’t think there will be mountains of salmon building up.

“I don’t think it will radically affect things. My understanding is that it won’t make a difference as the fish will be diverted into European markets such as France. The reason producers like Asia is that they get a good price for it. The fish will just get absorbed into the EU, There’s not going to be a glut of salmon around. The EU market can expand if the price is right,” he said.

“The Scottish industry doesn’t produce enough that can satisfy the UK and export market, so the market has to bring in from Norway, but it prefers to focus on lucrative exports,” added Jaffa.