January 29, 2021 

Under the influence of coronavirus, salmon has encountered great challenges in the Chinese market. The country’s total import of frozen salmon is estimated to dive by about 50%. However, the market is too lucrative to be given up, and exporters still feel confident about their future there. Some have planned to invest more to revive demand there, while some have updated development plans to grab greater market shares.

The disease outbreak in early 2020 has forced quite a number of restaurants in China to close down temporarily or even forever, which leads to great reduction in the country’s salmon consumption, since most were sold through local restaurants. After some short-term rebound, the detection of coronavirus on imported salmon packages has worsened the market situation in June, and the export was almost halted for around one to two months.

In spite of such great market depression, many still believe in this market’s potential. For example, according to Victoria Braathen, the director of China for the Norwegian Seafood council, Chinese consumers attach greater importance to products’ qualities, traceability and sustainability now, which means more opportunities for Norwegian seafood in this Asian market.

Such confidence is far from blind. As available statistics show, though Norwegian salmon exports to China were unstable last year and even plummeted to nearly zero in February, the total export is about 0.017 million tons in 2020, which is an impressive record even compared with the previous years’ numbers. And the volume has been on the rise for six consecutive months in the second half year.

Some others may not be so lucky, however, instead of hesitating and waiting to see how the market will develop, a few have come up with new development plans. A case in point is Chile, which intends to spend US$0.2 million on a virtual market campaign to boost China’s demand.

Although the pandemic has not changed exporters’ outlook on this oriental market, it does revise their development plans. Salmon used to be sold through restaurants there, but now greater attention has been shifted to online sales channels and individual consumers. According to some insiders, higher retail sales have helped cut their losses in restaurant sales to great extents, and more importantly, such sales are expected to continue to increase.

To better promote salmon to individual consumers in China, some salmon companies have already taken action. Marine Harvest, for example, has made use of its processing plant in Shanghai and designated new products targeting individual consumers. Meanwhile, Cermaq has built a traceability system through which Chinese consumers can scan relevant codes and learn about its salmon traces.

Undeniably it is arduous for salmon exporters to rekindle Chinese passion about imported salmon, and the competition is likely to be more fierce with possibly greater global salmon output this year. But enthusiastic buyers will be worth it. During the coronavirus, household consumption has increased between 30% to 40% in most markets. The potential may be even greater for salmon in China. But it is not that easy to fulfill the first task, which is rebuild consumers’ confidence there.