New coronavirus unrest stalls China exports, but some salmon is getting in

Aslak Berge, Owen Evans

Chinese authorities’ discovery of coronavirus on a chopping board for imported salmon in Beijing, has created major challenges for Norwegian salmon exporters.

“Got two pallets in yesterday. They had to be coronavirus-tested before they entered the country – and the result was of course negative,” the boss of major exporter Coast Seafood Sverre Søraa told SalmonBusiness. “We had an air pallet that went via Doha. We took this in return to Norway,” he added.

Søraa did not hide the fact that the logistics towards the Chinese market are demanding now. The exporter, which has become something of an aircraft specialist, has extensive activity against overseas markets.

Read more: New “unchartered territory” coronavirus fears shakes salmon markets: “Can be very challenging for the aquaculture industry”

“Beijing is of course the most difficult airport to deal with. Here all things happen first and they always put in immediate action. We look at the situation before we decide what to do for the weekend,” Søraa said.

“It’s an unclear situation,” he said.

Export competitor Norwell is also experiencing problems in China.

“It’s slow to be reported here. Demand is falling and it is difficult to achieve anything,” said CEO Ingrid Kassen.

“We received cancelled orders that were due to end at the weekend and orders to be delivered early week (Thursday/Friday). Now an order remains to mainland China, packing Thursday and delivery Monday/Tuesday next week. It is not cancelled, but believes there is less a 50 per cent chance of it going as planned,” explained Norwell’s Asia chief Snorre Kvammen.

“Other destinations, such as Hong Kong and South Korea, have reduced orders due to lower market demand. This is not a logistical challenge, but reduced demand as a result of the Board of Directors in Beijing,” Kvammen continued.

Hamish Macdonell, Director of Strategic Engagement, Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation, told SalmonBusiness that this year because of the pandemic, 2020 volumes exported to China – the third largest export market – have been reduced by 80 per cent.

“Exports of Scottish salmon to China had not got back to their pre-Covid levels before this fresh outbreak occurred so there was only a limited amount of our fish on its way to China at the time

“As a result, most of our members have not been affected. Those that have been affected are adapting to this new slowdown in the Chinese market by diverting product elsewhere or holding it at international hubs while new buyers are found,” said Macdonell.

The new trade group known as El Consejo del Salmon de Chile (The Chile Salmon Council) formed of the country’s biggest hitters, AquaChile, Cermaq Chile, Mowi and Salmones Aysén told SalmonBusiness that all “the companies, who are members of the council, have the world´s highest processing standards on food safety, in order to protect our customers when consuming salmon”.

“There is no evidence to connect the Cov19 outbreak in Beijing last week with salmon. We are aware of the media reports, however there is no official information regarding the source of any COVID-19 contamination, other than unverified comments that the virus was related to a cutting board used to prepare salmon in the impacted wholesale market,” it wrote.

SalmonChile, the national association for the salmon industry in Chile did not respond to SalmonBusiness’ request for a comment.


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