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Chilean export volumes up but earnings down in 2020

Chile exported more salmon last year than in 2019 but got less money for it. Image: Salmonexpert.cl.
Chile exported more salmon last year than in 2019 but got less money for it. Image: Salmonexpert.cl.

Chile exported 7% more salmon and trout in 2020 than the year before but overall export revenue fell by 14% as prices in key markets plummeted because of the impacts of Covid-19.

According to figures from the country’s Customs Service, Chile – the world’s second-largest producer of farmed salmon – exported 779,000 tonnes of salmon and trout worth US $4.39 billion, whereas in 2019 salmonid producers exported 725,000 tonnes of fish worth $5.13bn.

In the most recent edition of Salmon Industry Commercial Outlook - produced by statistics provider DataSalmon and Fish Farming Expert’s Chilean sister publication, Salmonexpert – DataSalmon product manager Fernanda Clément says the large 2020 harvest is mainly explained by high average weights.

Prices for Chilean salmon in the country’s two biggest markets, the United States and Brazil, exhibited a rebound during November and December but remain well below the average reached in the last five years.

Joanna Davidovich: Continued operations kept people in jobs.
Joanna Davidovich: Continued operations kept people in jobs.

Saving jobs

Joanna Davidovich, executive director of the Salmon Council which represents Chile’s biggest producers, said the drop in the value of shipments reflected the impact of measures imposed to limit the spread of Covid-19 - such as the closure and confinement - on the sales of the hotel, restaurant and café (Horeca) segment, which represents a relevant percentage of salmon sales.

“However, it is important to note that the operational continuity of the industry, which was based on strict safety and care protocols for its employees during this difficult period, allowed the tonnage of salmon exported to grow last year, allowing the employment associated with salmon farming in the southern macro zone”, said Davidovich.

Francisco Muñoz: Hoping for an
Francisco Muñoz: Hoping for an "effective recovery" to boost export prices.

Francisco Muñoz, economics minister of Los Lagos region, said it was hoped 2021 would be a year of “effective recovery” and that the industry’s exports would be worth a similar amount to those of 2019.

Salmon makes up 77% of Los Lagos region’s export income and 14% of Chile’s non-mining shipments, said the minister.

Markets

In 2020, 223,000 tonnes of salmonids worth $1.7bn were exported to the US, 14% more in terms of volume and 8% less in value than in 2019, when 196,000 tonnes were exported for $1.86bn.

Brazil received 122,000 tonnes of salmon and trout, earning exporters $408 million. In 2019, Brazil bought 120,000 tonnes of Chilean salmonids for $602m.

Chile sent 30,000 tonnes of salmonids worth $134m, compared to the 50,000 tonnes worth $271m in 2019. The figures reflect a 50% decrease in value terms and a 40% decrease in volume in 2020.

Japan bought 185,000 tonnes of Chilean salmonids for $1.023bn last year, which is 14% more in volume and 32% less in value compared to 2019, when Japan bought 162,000 tonnes of salmon and trout for $1.105bn.

Russia received 62,000 tonnes of salmonids worth $301m from Chile in 2020, a fall of 3% and 20% in terms of volume and value, respectively, compared to 2019, when 64,000 tonnes of salmonids were exported for $376m.