After the pandemic has depressed the price of cod, fishermen’s income has been reduced by 25% so far this year.
While visiting the Sufi fish farm at the far end of Lofoten in Tromsø, a storm swept through the castings and some dried fish hanging on the rocks were blown down and melted. In the first three months of the year, the price of cod fell like a stone, and both fishermen and fish farms were struggling to make money.
-We had expected the price to fall sharply. Last winter, we had the highest price ever. General Manager Ole Olsen said that for covid, we expect a sharp decline.
Ole is the sixth generation and runs the family’s fish farm in the beautiful Sund of Flakstadvåg at the end of Lofoten. The company pickles and dries most of the cod it buys, and some of it is sent fresh to European supermarkets.
In the peak year of 2019, they sold fish for 1 billion Swedish kronor and made a pre-tax profit of 6 million Swedish kronor. Fish farms have an operating profit margin of 2%, which is very common, indicating that they are vulnerable to market changes. The pandemic has suffocated the European fresh fish market, and Norwegian fishermen and fish farms have been severely hit.
-The fresh market is much weaker than before. The decline in market value corresponds to the price we pay to fishermen. Olsen said this is difficult for all parties.
At present, fishermen receive 23 Norwegian kroner per kilogram of cod delivered, which is 12 Norwegian kroner lower than the same period last year. Prices have fallen by 34%, causing fishermen’s income this year to be much lower than last year.
The increase in fishing quotas means that fishermen delivered more fish in the first quarter of this year compared to the same period last year. So far, fishermen in the north have delivered 4.25 billion Norwegian kroner fish, compared with 5.6 billion Norwegian kroner in the same period last year. This is a reduction of 1.35 billion Norwegian kroner, a 25% reduction.
-These are absolutely terrible prices. Last year, the average price of our cod was 35-40 kronor per kilogram. Simon Haugen (26), a fisherman from Tromsø, said that as a result, our fishermen’s wages this year are much lower than last year.
Cod is the fish that provides most of the income of coastal fishermen. From Møre and the north. Therefore, the drop in the price of cod is serious for thousands of fishermen. Charles Ass, the sales director of the Norwegian Raw Fish Association, said that before 2009 and 2013, prices had only fallen twice.
-This is a dramatic drop. Aas said that from 2012 to 2013, prices fell by 30%.
In Sund, they buy cod during winter fishing in Lofoten, dry and marinate the fish, and then sell it to buyers in Italy and Portugal in the fall. Companies that sell dried and salted fish start from buying fish from fishermen and must wait 6 to 12 months until they receive payment from foreign buyers. During the pandemic, the market is volatile and the risk of loss increases.
-We are increasing the stock of dried fish and salted fish. We will not know what price we will get until autumn and next winter. Olsen said that we need a good business reputation to sustain our livelihoods.
Family business is the operation of many fish farms with very low or negative operating profit margins. Although the fishermen have achieved good harvests from 2013 to 2020, the land-based fishing industry has been struggling and the harvest has not been good for decades.