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HAVBRUK2-Stort program for havbruksforskning

COVID-19 – The impact on Norwegian seafood trade and coastal communities

Alternative title: COVID-19 – Konsekvenser for Norsk sjømathandel og kystsamfunn

Awarded: NOK 10.1 mill.

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2021 - 2025


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International trade is crucial to the economic viability of the seafood sector as well as the many coastal communities that rely on the sector. The recent COVID-19 pandemic has led to large disruptions in international trade. This project aims to examine how Norwegian seafood trade has been affected by the shock to the global economic shock caused by the pandemic. More than 90% of Norwegian seafood is exported, an activity that is coordinated between many thousand trade partners around the globe. Norwegian seafood exports is conducted within a large, complex and dynamic network. Complex network structures can be vulnerable to crisis. However, surprisingly little is known about the immediate and long-term effects of trade shocks on the Norwegian seafood sector. We aim to improve this knowledge with a primary focus on the COVID crisis, but also by comparing it to the financial crisis in 2008. This project will work in close collaboration with the Norwegian Customs and several Norwegian partners related to the seafood sector. We will use customs and firm-level data to identify how the sector has adapted to the crisis. What has been successful and? What adaptations have been especially important to maintain the value of the sector? We also examine effects of the pandemic on local coastal communities. The fishing industry is more regionalized than the aquaculture industry. For instance, the dried salt cod sector has a strong regional cluster around Ålesund, while the dried cod sector has a cluster in Lofoten. An important hypothesis is that the crisis affects clusters in the seafood industry differently depending on their degree of specialization for different products or markets. Our findings aim to help policymakers by giving indicative solutions on how to handle crisis in the seafood sector in the future. Our results will provide guidance to inform policy makers on important areas to be aware of to foster increased robustness to crisis. So far results indicate that Norwegian seafood exports in total was relatively little affected by the pandemic. The total effect on export quantity, value and price was small. This suggests an overall robust and flexible industry in the face of export challenges. Even though we saw challenges in specific markets and product forms, for instance the time frozen cod spent in storage increased during the pandemic, exporters where overall able to find new markets for their products. Further research will give more details about single markets and products forms as well as document successful adaptations to the shock.

The seafood industry is important for Norway and its coastal communities. In 2017, the seafood industry contributed almost 94 billion NOK to the Norwegian GDP, employing around 58 000 person-hours divided between the industry itself and the associated supplier and services industries. International trade is crucial for the industry as more than 90% of production is exported, and therefore also for employment and the general well-being of the coastal communities that depend on the industry. The recent COVID-19 pandemic has led to disruptions and increased uncertainty in international trade. This has also affected seafood trade. Just as during the 2008/09 international trade collapse, aggregate Norwegian seafood trade appear less affected than other exporting sectors to the trade shock. However, the aggreaget hides much heterogeneity across different products, firms and markets. To understand how the sector and communities are affected it is necessary to understand how seafood trade responds to crisis. This includes abilities to re-direct trade flows in times of crisis, find new trade partners and markets, and adjust product forms and supply chains to changing market conditions. This project will address these points using firm level non-anonymous customs declarations data organized in collaboration with the Norwegin Toll Direcatorate. The analysis will be founded on the rapidly developing trade literature usin firm-level customs data. Customs data will be combined with additional data from Statistics Norway that provide more specific firm level information (balance sheets, ownership nationality, industry codes, and location) and data that provides information on regional seafood sector employment and wages. This will provide a unique opportunity to trace the trade impacts of the pandemic through the exporting firms and to the local communities where the fish is produced. Real time access to the customs data allow us to trace out longer term persistent impacts.

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HAVBRUK2-Stort program for havbruksforskning