With all the talk of the importance of oil & gas to the Norwegian economy, it’s easy to forget another industry absolutely vital to the economy, especially outside of Oslo and Stavanger.
In the first half of 2014, Norwegian seafood exports were worth NOK 32.7bn (USD $5.2bn), of which NOK 21.5bn (USD $3.5bn) billion was salmon.
The growth of seafood exports is remarkable given the growing trend for locally-sourced food, but Norwegian salmon is desired the world over. Over the past year, I’ve seen Norwegian salmon prominently featured on high-class restaurant menus from Spain to the USA.
But all this good news for the Norwegian economy is now at risk, as Russia has announced a ban on imports of food products from the United States, the EU, Canada, Australia and Norway.
Russia is Norway’s biggest market for salmon exports.
This is a challenging situation for Norwegian seafood exporters. However, the Norwegian seafood industry has long experience of tackling trade barriers in Russia, and are thus prepared for such situations. Together with the seafood industry and the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries, the Norwegian Seafood Council therefore works with assessing which marketing initiatives and priorities that can be implemented to mitigate the consequences the import ban may lead to – Terje E. Martiniussen, Norwegian Seafood Council
According to the Guardian, the Kremlin’s move “comes in response to the grounding of the budget airline subsidiary of Aeroflot as a result of EU sanctions over Moscow’s support for rebels in Ukraine. Medvedev also said officials were considering a ban on European airlines flying to Asia over Siberia.”
Of course, Norway can’t complain too loudly. Its agricultural policy (which is not part of the EEA agreement) is famously protectionist with high duties on imports of most dairy products, which ensures that nine out of ten packs of butter on Norwegian shelves are Norwegian. This contributed to the infamous butter shortage of 2011, which quickly amused the world thanks to the Colbert Report and Fox News:
Whether this tit-for-tat behaviour from Russia impacts the Norwegian economy remains to be seen. One thing’s for sure though, you won’t see Norwegian salmon on a menu in Russia for quite some time.
Photo credit: Thomas Bjørkan