Moscow’s retaliatory trade sanctions have sparked a joint initiative between the state and food industry in Norway to identify substitute export markets.
Russia is Norway’s biggest market for fish and seafood products. Norway exported 300,000 tonnes of mainly salmon, trout and pelagic fish, valued at NOK6.8bn (US$1.11bn), in 2013. In the same year, Norway had total seafood exports of NOK61bn.
The country has only a marginal export trade in dairy and meat food products to Russia. Non-fish food exports ran to under NOK1bn in 2013.
Norway claims it has been “hit hard” by the sanctions. However, seafood industry representatives believe they can find other markets for their products.
“Sanctions will hurt the fish industry. However, this will be short-term as there is strong global demand, especially for salmon. Norwegian producers will have little trouble finding alternative markets,” said Paul Aandahl, a senior analyst with the Norges Sjømatråd, the Norwegian seafood council.
Processor Pelagia is the biggest Norwegian exporter of herring to Russia, with sales worth NOK400m in 2013.
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Egil Magne Haugstad, Pelagia’s CEO, believes the company can adjust in the wake of the sanctions.
“We had seen signs that Russian demand was falling and trading conditions more difficult six months ago. We will cope well. We have both experience and success exporting to markets other than Russia,” Haugstad said.
Some analysts expect EU-Russian sanctions to be short-lived. Danske Bank predicts the EU will lift sanctions on Russia in one to three months, with Moscow responding with an end to the ban on foods.
“Neither side has the appetite to start a trade war. Both would find this situation unbearable,” said Danske Bank chief analyst Thomas Harr.