Global trade values contracting in 2015


After years of rising seafood exports, global trade values are contracting in 2015. There are several reasons for this including the weakening of many key emerging markets, lower prices for a number of important species and the cancellation of the second anchoveta season in Peru in 2014. However, the primary underlying cause of this decline is the strong gains of the US dollar versus multiple currencies, particularly those of major seafood exporters such as the EU, Norway and China. Exchange rate developments have been one of the main influencing factors in global seafood markets this year.

2015 is still registering growing traded volumes as the upward trend in global fish consumption is continuing, but at a slower pace. Current projections put per capita consumption at 20.1 kg in 2015, 0.1 kg higher than 2014. The proportion of farmed fish in this total has increased once again this year, after overtaking that of capture fisheries in 2014. Global fish production is estimated to grow by some 2.6% this year, with a 5% increase in aquaculture production, in a continuation of the long-term trend.

The USA has again been the top performing market for seafood so far in 2015, driven by good economic growth and significantly boosted purchasing power for importers. US buyers have also been able to avail of low prices for shrimp, tuna, Chilean salmon and tilapia. Demand in the EU is stable, while Japanese imports have been impacted by a weak yen. Major emerging markets, particularly Russia and Brazil, have also been affected by depreciating currencies and economic difficulties that have been supressing consumer spending. For Russia, there will be ongoing challenges to supply domestic seafood markets following the decision to extend the Russian food import embargo until early 2016.

Of the large producing countries, Norway continues to benefit from good prices for cod and salmon despite the absence of the important Russian market, while Chinese processing of whitefish is down this year on lower catches. Despite a brief recovery in raw material prices in October, the tuna industry continues to see margins squeezed by excess catches by global tuna fleets, although low fuel prices are providing some relief in terms of costs. In the salmon market, there has been a sharp divergence in the revenues of Norwegian and Chilean exporters, as the latter has lost major supply contracts with large retail chains in the USA who are increasingly looking to Norway and Canada to meet demand for farmed salmon. Shrimp producers, meanwhile, will be hoping that tighter supply this year will arrest and reverse a substantial decline in prices in 2015. For fishers of small pelagics, stocks of herring and mackerel are good in the North Atlantic, but the Russian trade ban continues to create some turbulence in the market.

The FAO Fish Price Index was 6 points lower in June 2015 compared with the same month in 2014. Some of the most important traded species such as tuna, salmon and shrimp have all seen overall price declines this year. Some species have seen price increases, however, such as herring, cephalopods, oysters and scallops. Prices for fishmeal and fish oil remain at relatively low levels for the time being, but El Niño is expected to affect anchoveta catches in South America and drive prices and production costs upwards once again, particularly given what is already a shortfall in supplies for the ever-growing global aquaculture sector. Another prominent issue that has been highlighted again this year is the growing awareness amongst consumers of sustainability and health aspects of the fish they buy, something that is set to increasingly demand the attention of all the players in the world’s seafood market.