Article in "Undercurrent News"
Even before the coronavirus pandemic started in China and swept to the rest of the world, Hogne Worren, CEO of Norwegian whitefish raw material supplier Nordic Seaco, was seeing a shift in the market.
“We’ve seen a desire from customers to move toward products produced in Europe, in countries like Poland, rather than China,” Worren told Undercurrent News.
“This [shift] is not done overnight and still China will be the main producer in the world. Also capacity is much more limited in North Europe. For sure, there are many advantages like a short distance to the market, and you can even deliver on a pallet basis,” he told Undercurrent.
Norway has got no particular industry remaining, but this can change if the market will be willing to pay the premium for a fresh frozen product. The cost of production is increasing in China as well, and it is just a matter of time before machines will be doing the job there too,” he said. The situation with coronavirus has accelerated a trend of companies wanting to shorten supply chains and produce closer to the source, he said.
To capitalize on this shift and “open more doors” in the market, Worren added Erik Markussen, a 30-year seafood sector veteran, to his team in March. Erik will be working as our business development manager, and will make use of his vast network of contacts to improve our business and create new opportunities for Nordic Seaco and our customers. Erik will be working out of our new branch office in Oslo,” said Worren.
Markussen was previously with Nomad Foods, overseeing seafood buying in the Nordic region for the Findus brands. He’s also a former executive of Frionor, a processing and sales producer co-operative where both Worren and Gunn Bortne, Nordic Seaco’s key account manager, worked in the past. “In the early years of his career, both Gunn and I had the pleasure of working together with Erik at Frionor and we are delighted to reconnectwith him again,” Worren said.
Although the closure of foodservice in Europe and the US has seen fresh cod prices tumble, frozen products are holding up better, Worren said. "The problem is that future is unsure and unsafe.” However, on cod, the bulk of the quota has already been caught. “For cod, 65% of the quota has been taken already, so we do not see any drastic changes there. Boats are now moving to other fisheries like redfish and shrimp,” he said.
“Hopefully, the important horeca [hotel, restaurant and catering] sector do reopen again soon and then there will be a need for products again.We can see that countries are opening up.
Based in Alesund, Nordic Seaco has a turnover of around NOK 150 million ($14.60m) and supplies headed and gutted cod, haddock and saithe, as well as fillets and loins. The company also sells pelagic, wet salted and dried salted fish as well, and products following the different seasons.
At the start of the year, Nordic Seaco also added Kristin Skar Eriksen as its finance controller. Skar Eriksen previously worked for Rolls-Royce Marine and Leroy Norway Seafoods.
“People simply need healthy food. We feel we are doing an important job and with a good job done by logistic partners, goods are going smoothly to different markets. However, we as everyone else, are concerned about the virus and what is going to happen. Hopefully, there will be sunny days again,” he said.