Re-auction of MTB proves it is still attractive in invest in Norwegian fish farming, says fisheries minister Bjørnar Skjæran.

Mowi and Cermaq are biggest spenders at permit auction after 2022 boycott

But Mowi hasn't changed stance on ground rent tax, says spokesman


Salmon farming giants Mowi and Cermaq secured the largest extra maximum total biomass (MTB) in a re-auction of unsold fish farming permits carried out by the Norwegian government last week.

Mowi and Cermaq, Norway’s largest and fourth-largest salmon producers respectively, were among major players that boycotted the original auction of 32,887 tonnes of MTB last October in protest at the 40% ground rent tax on the profits of salmonid farmers. That tax, which imposed on top of corporation tax of 22%, has been passed by the Storting (Parliament) but at a lower rate of 25%.

The boycott led to 8,243 tonnes of MTB remaining unsold, and that was what was re-auctioned earlier this month. Norway’s coast is divided into salmonid production areas, from 1 in the south to 13 in the far north, and extra capacity is sold in the areas where lice numbers on farms are deemed not to be a threat to migrating wild smolts.

4,262 tonnes for Cermaq

Cermaq, owned by Japanese industrial giant Mitsubishi, bought more than half of the MTB on offer: 4,262 tonnes in Western Finnmark (area 14) for just over NOK 792.3 million (£59.8m) and 861 tonnes in Eastern Finnmark (area 15) for NOK 133.5m.

Mowi bought 1,249 tonnes for NOK 124.9m in production area 1 (the Swedish border to Jaeren), 48 tonnes for a price of NOK 8.9m in area 11 (Kvaløya to Loppa) and 910 tonnes for NOK 169.1m in production area 12 (Western Finnmark). Altogether, this amounts to 2,207 tonnes of MTB at a price tag of NOK 302 million.

Ola Helge Hjetland, communications manager at Mowi in Norway, told Fish Farming Expert’s Norwegian sister site that the MTB purchases were simply maintenance investments in existing production.

“Otherwise, neither our strategy nor our view on the new ground rent model has changed,” Hjetland said in answer a question from about whether it was important for the company to grow despite the ground rent tax that was introduced.

Still attractive to invest

All 8,243 tonnes of MTB were sold, distributed over five production areas. The total consideration for the auction was NOK 1.5 billion. That works out at NOK 181,973 per tonne, more than the amount raised in October 2022, when the government sold 24,644 tonnes of MTB for NOK 3.8bn, or NOK 154,196 per tonne.

“The auction shows that it is still attractive to invest in aquaculture, and a significant proportion of this income will be distributed back to coastal municipalities and county municipalities through the Aquaculture Fund,” said fisheries minister Bjørnar Skjæran.