Chilean exports of whole Atlantic salmon are becoming increasingly concentrated in major destinations. According to Chile Customs data, from Jan-23 through Oct-23, Chile exported a total of 143.52 thousand metric tons (mt) of fresh whole Atlantic salmon and 77.64 thousand mt of frozen whole Atlantic salmon. These figures represent increases of 12.3% year-on-year (YoY) and 0.6% YoY. In terms of value, exports of fresh whole Atlantic salmon represented a total of USD 945 million, while those of frozen whole Atlantic salmon represented a total of USD 523 million, reflecting annual changes of 8.2% and a negative 5.3%, respectively.
In terms of prices, fresh whole Atlantic salmon was USD 6.59 per kilogram (kg), reflecting a decline of 3.7% YoY, while frozen whole Atlantic salmon was USD 6.73/kg, a drop of 5.8% YoY.
Analyzing exports of both fresh and frozen whole Atlantic salmon products together, it's worth noting that the top export destinations –Brazil, Russia, China, and the United States (US) – experienced YoY growth from Jan-23 to Oct-23. Excluding Mexico, other top ten locations –Thailand, Argentina, Colombia, Taiwan, and the Philippines – registered a decline in exported volume. When taking into account all locations, excluding the first four, the fall was a sharp 26% YoY, which nonetheless was more-than-offset by growth in the top four destinations.
China’s large increase has been driven by renewed demand following the lifting of pandemic restrictions earlier this year. Russia has been procuring more salmon from Chile as a result of a decline in seafood exports from other sources after the start of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Exports to Russia have also shown an important increase as they come from an abnormally lower base in 2022, when exports were low also due to the conflict. Imports from Russia are expected to remain high assuming no major changes in the geopolitical situation. However, strong domestic supply might cap the upside. In the case of Mexico, Chilean exports have grown as the purchasing power of Mexican importers has expanded this year due to a much stronger Mexican peso. Mexico’s increasing imports are expected to continue at least until H1 next year, expecting no major changes in the major drivers (strong peso).
It’s worth noting that whole Atlantic salmon exports are growing despite expectations of lower Atlantic salmon production in the country. In fact, Q3-2023 Atlantic salmon production in Los Lagos, Chile's largest salmon-producing region, totaled 71.21 thousand mt, which reflects a considerable drop of 30% compared to the same period last year. Moreover, this November, an algal bloom reportedly killed over 1.1 thousand mt of salmon in the same region. Growth of exports without a matching growth in output is a reflection of growing external demand.
According to Salmonexpert, Chilean Atlantic and Coho salmon production levels next year are expected to remain stable compared to this year's levels. However, scarcity is expected for H1-2024, which is predicted to pressure prices to the upside.
Moreover, according to a recent survey done by Rabobank and the Global Seafood Alliance, Norway will drive the growth of global Atlantic salmon production, expected to be 4.3% next year and by 3.9% in 2025. The same survey reflected some uncertainty over Chile's production growth in the upcoming years.
In 2022, according to SERNAPESCA data, Chile produced 758.9 thousand mt of Atlantic salmon, representing an increase of 4.6% compared to 2021 levels, but a 3.6% drop compared to 2020's record high of 787 thousand mt.
Meanwhile, Chile produced a record high of 241.9 thousand mt of Coho salmon in 2022, rising by 13.5% compared to 2021 levels.
Chile's largest salmon-producing regions are Los Lagos, with 40% of Chile's total Atlantic salmon production and 74% of total Coho salmon production in 2022, and Aysén, with 39% of Chile's total Atlantic salmon production and 26% of Chile's total Coho salmon production.