The US Imported More Salmon Fillets in 2023 Amid Generalized Drop in Seafood Demand

Frozen Atlantic Salmon Fillet
Published Feb 26, 2024
Overall US seafood imports declined both in value and value in 2023 due to lower prices and lower demand in a context of a persistent glut and generalized inflation. However, some products, such as salmon fillets, experienced growth. This trend is expected to continue in 2024.

Many key seafood products imported by the United States (US), such as frozen shrimp and frozen crab experienced a decline in value in 2023, primarily attributed to decreasing average prices and lower demand. The lowering of prices failed to stimulate demand for most products. In fact, demand declined, putting further downward pressure on prices and contributing to the decrease in the value of the US seafood industry. This waning demand can be attributed to the persistent inflationary pressures that have dominated the seafood import market since 2022. Furthermore, the estimation of end-consumer demand in 2022 following the easing of most pandemic restrictions proved overly optimistic, leading to an oversupply of many products, causing a decline in imports.

However, certain products experienced year-on-year (YoY) growth in value despite the prevailing downward trend. Among these, fresh or chilled salmon fillets stood out, exhibiting the most significant YoY increase in value in 2023. According to data from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the US imported 218 thousand metric tons (mt) of fresh or chilled salmon fillets, totaling USD 2.82 billion in value. Import volumes increased by 9.1% YoY, while import values increased by 1.8% YoY. Despite the growth in volume and value, the average price experienced a 7% YoY decline.

Amidst the backdrop of inflation, there was a notable preference for more affordable products. Furthermore, ongoing geopolitical tensions led to certain regions becoming increasingly competitive in terms of pricing.

In recent years, Chile has consistently held its position as the primary source for salmon fillets to the US. In 2023, the volume of imports from Chile saw a noteworthy 11% YoY increase, reaching 163 thousand mt. The average import price from Chile stood at USD 11.97 per kilogram (kg), marking a 7% reduction compared to the overall average from all sources.

Conversely, imports from Norway, the second most significant source of imports, experienced a 3% YoY decline to 26.2 thousand mt. Meanwhile, the average price from Norway rose by 6% to USD 16.91/kg, significantly surpassing the average from all origins.

Notably, frozen salmon fillets also experienced annual growth. US imports of frozen salmon fillets grew by 1% YoY in value in 2023. Albeit less pronounced compared to their fresh or chilled counterparts, the growth observed in this category is remarkable during a year marked by significant declines in most other major products.

Whole fresh or chilled Atlantic salmon also ranks among the most important seafood products in the US. However, unlike salmon fillets, it did not experience an increase in value. Total imports for this product reached 122.7 thousand mt, amounting to a total value of USD 1.251 billion. This represented a 3% YoY decline in volume and a 4.2% decline in value. The average import price stood at USD 9.91/kg, down by 1% compared to the previous year.

The decline in import volume can be primarily attributed to reduced volumes from Canada, which experienced a significant 16% YoY drop to 58.6 thousand mt. The Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance reported in Jun-23 that exports of farm-raised Atlantic salmon from Canada were diminishing in the initial months of 2023, largely due to decreased exports to the Seattle port. This decline may be partly influenced by the stronger impact of inflation on consumers in this region, leading to increased substitution with cheaper alternatives.

In contrast, imports from Norway and Chile both saw notable 14% YoY increases, reaching 20.3 thousand mt and 18.7 thousand mt, respectively. In contrast to the decline observed in fillets, whole fresh Atlantic salmon import volumes from Norway increased as the average import price from this origin also decreased in annual terms.

However, despite experiencing a YoY decline, this change is relatively minor compared to the significant decreases seen in imports of frozen shrimp and frozen crab, both of which are also among the top five most imported seafood products in the US. In 2024, this trend is anticipated to continue, with strong demand for salmon expected to persist.

Figure 1: Main US Imports of Fish and Crustaceans, Molluscs and Other Aquatic Invertebrates (HS Code 03)

Source: USDA, Tridge

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