EUMOFA has released the 2021 Edition of “The EU Fish Market”

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By Milthon Lujan

“The  EU  fish  market” aims at providing an economic description of the whole European fisheries and aquaculture industry.  It replies to questions such as what is produced/exported/imported,  when and where, what is consumed,  by whom and what are the main trends.

Effects of Covid-19 pandemic on the EU consumers of fishery and aquaculture products in 2020

From 2019 to 2020, household expenditure on fishery and aquaculture products grew by 17%, which was much higher than the 2,1% inflation of prices for these products. The increasing trend was confirmed by data on household consumption of fresh fish in the EU’s largest consuming countries, which showed an increase of 7% in value and 4% in volume. This increase was most likely due to the closings in the HoReCa sector due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the consequent increase in at-home consumption. The effects of the pandemic are quite apparent also when looking at 2020 data on out-of-home consumption of processed products. The most significant decreases from 2019 registered in the largest countries, which had seen their restaurants closed for longer periods.

Improvement of the value of the EU trade balance

Due to decreased imports, the trade deficit in 2020 was 10% or EUR 2 billion less than in 2019. Values of EU imports decreased more than volumes from 2019 because of the more significant decrease of high-value species mainly destined for the HoReCa sector, which was included in the shutdowns initiated to control the spread of COVID-19. Exports, on the other hand, showed a slight growth from 2019 but decreased by 4% in value: cod accounted for most of the overall value decrease, as a consequence of decreased exports to China and the UK.

Intra-EU exchanges followed the same trend as extra-EU imports, as they largely consist of northern Member States exporting products originating from Norway and Iceland – mostly salmon and cod – to other EU countries.

Decreased supply and apparent consumption from 2018 to 2019

Per capita apparent consumption, estimated at 23,97 kg of live weight of mostly wild-caught products, was almost stable in 2019 compared with 2018: according to EUMOFA estimates, in 2019 EU citizens consumed, on average, 390 grams less of live weight fishery and aquaculture products than in 2018. The drop was driven by a decrease in catches and, thus, in apparent consumption of wild products, especially of herring. Indeed, the total supply of fisheries and aquaculture products for human consumption (production + imports) totalled 14,53 million tonnes of live weight, which represented a 206.402-tonne decrease from 2018. The drop in catches offset the increases in imports and aquaculture production.

Key dynamics of major species


For the first time in history, imports of salmon to the EU exceeded 1 million tonnes in 2020. One driver behind the increase was the number of constraints on air freight to overseas markets due to COVID-19 pandemic and the consequent higher share of the European production (mainly Norwegian production) being sold on the EU market.


2020 was also a special year for tuna in terms of trade balance. For the first time, the extra-EU import value of whole tuna (EUR 422 million) was higher than the export value (EUR 412 million). Imports of tuna fillets (frozen and preserved) exceeded imports of whole tuna. Both registered a drop from 2019 (-11% and -7%, respectively), and were imported at lower prices.

Alaska pollock

From 2019 to 2020, imports of Alaska pollock from China dropped by 11% in terms of both volume and value due to pandemic challenges. In the first half of 2021, the pandemic hit the Alaska pollock industry in the US. At the same time, China closed its ports to the Russian Federation, creating a very difficult raw material supply situation for Chinese processors. This situation impacted the EU supply chain negatively, causing volatile prices.

Atlantic mackerel

Despite ICES proposed an 8%-reduction in Atlantic mackerel quotas for 2021 to 852.284 tonnes, the sum of the quotas set by each fishing country individually (the EU, Iceland, Norway, Faroe Islands and Russia) was higher than ICES’s advice. The catch season started early in 2021 and as per end September 2021, coastal states (Norway, Iceland, the Faroe Islands and the UK) landed approx. 630.000 tonnes of Atlantic mackerel, which is significantly higher compared to 2020 landings. On top of this, the EU fleet has a quota just above 200.000 tonnes in 2021. Despite high catch volumes, export prices of whole frozen Atlantic mackerel from the EU averaged 1,41 EUR/kg during the first seven months of 2021, with a decrease by 4% compared to the same period in 2020.

Seabass and seabream

EU production of farmed seabass and seabream is estimated slightly down in 2020 compared with 2019, while global production (including the EU) fell by 4%. Exports between Member States show a 5% increase in prices for seabass and 2% increase for seabream in 2020 compared with 2019. However, 2021 looks to be a stronger year in terms of production, with a 6-9% growth rate expected for the full year. The highest expectations are related to seabass. Fall in production in Turkey has materialized in higher market prices in late summer 2021, with EU import prices of farmed Turkish seabass increasing by 20% in one year.

Reference (open access):
EUMOFA. The EU Fish Market – 2021. 111 p. 

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