In recent years, Norwegian seafood exports to China have repeatedly reached new highs, demonstrating the vitality of the Chinese market.
According to data released by the Norwegian Seafood Council, Norway exported more than 180,000 tons of seafood to China in 2022, an increase of 8% compared with 2021. Exports exceeded 7.25 billion NOK, up 45% year on year.
Christian Chramer, the CEO of the Norwegian Seafood Council in an interview with the Southern Finance Omnimedia reporter, has expressed Norway's confidence, as a major seafood country, in the development prospects of the Chinese market as well as its determination to continue cultivating the Chinese market.
“We have a strong belief in the Chinese market, we are in here for the long-term,” Chramer said.
Chramer also stressed the importance of Norwegian companies coming to China, strengthening links with the Chinese market, and building strong friendships. “I hope that even more Norwegian companies will come in, visit China more, see that China is open for business, see that it's important to be present in the market,” Chramer added.
Strong belief in the Chinese market
SFC Markets and Finance: I learned that 2022 was an exceptional year for Norwegian seafood exports. Would you like to elaborate on some of the highlights?
Christian Chramer: Yes, it's right. Last year was a really strong year for Norway and for Norwegian seafood export. We came out of the pandemic with a record year. We've been building year on year over the last year and actually doubling the export in value since 2015. Seafood is now Norway's second largest export product.
We are a large salmon producer, and we're also a large wild fish nation. So our seafood now is a global brand. We reach close to 150 markets, and China is one of our major markets, which also was strong in 2022. With a record high year, we are really pleased with the results coming out of the pandemic, regaining and strengthening our position and making sure that we come out with important messages to the consumers and to the industry across the globe on why Norwegian products should be chosen, and what kind of quality and aspect we bring to the market.
SFC Markets and Finance: What are your expectations for 2023? How did it perform in the first quarter of this year?
Christian Chramer: For China, it was even stronger in the beginning of this year. We are now in a record high position also in the first quarter, with 32,000 tonnes of seafood to China from Norway, In Norwegian kroner 2.2 billion, 1.4 billion (in)RMB. So it's really strong in the first quarter, we are adding up to an already strong position.
We have a strong belief in the Chinese market, we are in here for the long-term. And we see that we can build on the already strong position to gain new ground, and to work closer with Chinese partners, the Chinese seafood industry, the retailers, and also with the consumers to get through with our messaging on why Norwegian fish and fish produce should be chosen in that market.
Working together is the best partnership for China and Norway
SFC Markets and Finance: In your opinion, what opportunities have emerged for the Norwegian seafood industry in China as the impact of COVID is now wakening?
Christian Chramer: For all countries around the world, the pandemic has been really challenging. Therefore, coming out of it also reminds us that we need to take the opportunities that we have. We must be agile and flexible, we need to take the opportunity and work together. I think that goes for the Norwegian companies working together, it goes for our collaboration with the Chinese companies, it also goes with our operations in the Chinese market. Norway as a country, we like to work together with the Chinese companies and the government to strengthen the cooperation.
SFC Markets and Finance: It's your first visit to China since your appointment. What is your impressions of China during this trip?
Christian Chramer: First, I must say I'm really happy to be back. It's good to be back in China after the pandemic. I used to be flying frequently to China in previous role and job. And now coming back, always impressive to see the volume of construction and industry building and how China is moving in a very strong and positive way in creating new business.
I think also seen from Norway coming to China, see how the digital trends are moving really fast, how the industry is interacting with the consumers on social media through different channels, that's impressive for Norwegian.
SFC Markets and Finance: As the CEO of the Norwegian seafood Council, what are your goals and priorities for the Chinese market this year? And how about your vision for the Norwegian seafood industry in China over the next five years?
Christian Chramer: It's a good question. And like I mentioned previously, I think we need to be more agile in the future. The markets are always evolving. The trends are moving really fast, the consumers are eager to jump on new trends. So I think we have a strong value proposition, we have been working closely with the Chinese industry for more than 20 years. Together, we can move from the solid fundament that we have been building, and on top of that, go into new channels to interact in new social media ways, to find the new ways of meeting the consumers.
We know that the consumers today are more into home cooking. They're looking for healthy, easy recipes. We know that most consumers, they will try to find time in the day. So we need to do time consuming elements in it to help them with inspiration.
And I think we need also tell the best possible fishing stories, because everyone loves a fishing story. To tell the story about the products where it comes from, I think that's my priorities and the plans for the future, but building from the same fundament we have been eager to convey over the last 20 years.
It's important to be present in the Chinese market
SFC Markets and Finance: What efforts have been made to introduce Norwegian seafood to a wider range of Chinese consumers?
Christian Chramer: China is a world leader in social media and digital communication, and that's really important. I will say we do a lot in China, that we can learn from and take over to other markets. At the moment, we look to China, and we do new things in China that can be inspirational for other countries in the region and globally. And now after moving out from the pandemic, I think also we see that we can do more of collaboration, and that we can meet and find and discuss how we want to build further on.
SFC Markets and Finance: Norwegian Seafood Council made its debut at the fifth CIIE in Shanghai last year. What has prompted NSC to become a new friend of the CIIE? What spillover effects have this platform brought?
Christian Chramer: We have seen over the years that CIIE has been an important arena to be present on, and from last year we had our own part of it. We see the value of how we can bring different stakeholders together, we see how the strong government initiatives can be part of what we do, how we can support the health strategy for 2030 to build that even stronger. Therefore, We have been really happy with last year's attendance and now after coming out of the pandemic, we expect that the coming exhibition can be even more interesting for many companies to attend. And we have a strong plan for this year's exhibition as well.
SFC Markets and Finance: What are your expectations for the CIIE this year? How do you plan to further utilize this platform?
Christian Chramer: Building from the positive experience, we see that it was the right decision to take part in. We will have a bigger presence this year, which means bigger stand and bigger booth.
We sincerely hope that we are able to bring more Norwegian companies into it, not only ones already present in China, but also bring more of our friends from Norway to China to the exhibition.
We see that there are so many important meetings taking place, we see that we can bring new products in to highlight new parts of our seafood export, we see that we can do new ways of collaboration, signing new agreements, finding ways of building new friendship and trust. So for us, CIIE has quickly be turned into a very important part of our annual routine. I expect that this year, we'll be building from the previous years' strong results and that now we can even (move) one step up the ladder, and then do even more in the coming exhibition.
SFC Markets and Finance: Do you see stronger motives from Norwegian seafood companies to expand their business in China?
Christian Chramer: I think it's fair to say that. When I talked to the Norwegian companies that work with export, they are talking about China in every second sentence. Speaking of the prospects for the future for the Chinese market, I think of the strong demand for salmon from Norway, how we been able to build over the years, we have a strong story which I think the Chinese people have taken to their heart—they like the tales from the land of the Northwest, where the water is cold and clean, where the fish can swim in clean waters, where they can grow slowly with the right temperature and give it a good taste that Chinese people can recognize—I think that's something that everyone in Norway on the seafood side knows that it's seen as very important for the Chinese.
I hope that even more Norwegian companies will come in, visit China more, see that China is open for business, see that it's important to be present in the market. Also, the Chinese consumer is moving so fast, it will be probably a sign for the future, what now is going on in China can be seen in different markets in the years to come.
Hence, I think it's important both to be here, because it's important to make sure to strengthen the ties and build friendship, and at the same time to make sure that we can move on from that, and have an even stronger presence in the future and make sure that more companies know the Chinese consumers.