With 7.5 million inhabitants and a per capita seafood consumption of 69.8 kg – which is among the highest in the world – Hong Kong is a large and seafood-hungry market.
Total seafood imports to Hong Kong have varied in recent years and in 2018 the volume decreased by 5% in volume and value increased by 3% measured in USD. Comparing imports and exports, however, one finds that there has been a significant increase in net imports of seafood over the last five years. Whilst imports has fallen by 5%, the decline in exports has been far more dramatic – a fall of over 62% between 2014 and 2018.
At the same time, self-capture has fallen by 25% over the last five years. In spite of falling import volumes, import value has increased from USD 36 billion in 2014 to USD 37 billion in 2018.
Norwegian share in total seafood imports to Hong Kong were about 78% in 2018. The closest competitors are Chile (9%) and China (5%).
In 2018, salmon accounted for nearly 97% of Norwegian exports to Hong Kong, but there were also small volumes of haddock, mackerel, cod and
Greenland halibut. It is also thought that Norwegian seafood is processed and re-exported from China to Hong Kong. This applies to mackerel and capelin on particular, but there have been no estimates regarding volume.
The biggest recent regional development is that market access for Norwegian salmon to China has significantly improved. This has been reflected in a sharp rice in exports of fresh salmon. Price-wise, Hong Kong is an attractive market. The per-kilogram price was about 5 NOK higher that in the EU markets. Partly because the size of the salmon for these markets are larger. In 2018, exports of Norwegian salmon have increased by 27% , reaching 15,600 tonnes. In the same period the price of salmon increased from 65 NOK per kilogram in 2017 to 69 NOK per kilogram in 2018.
Hong Kong has some of the highest seafood consumption in the world at 69.8 kg per capita. Over 80% of people say that they eat seafood at least once
a week. Estimates show that consumers in Hong Kong consume 152 seafood meals a year. In comparison, the average in Norway is 140 meals annually, while Europeans eat about 97.
In other words, an exceptionally high amount of seafood is consumed in Hong Kong. Consumers there specify good taste and health benefits as the two main reasons for choosing seafood. Convenience (easy to prepare on a busy weekday) and health are specified as good reasons for buying seafood. On the other hand, price does not seem to be so important, with only 20% of people specifying this as a reason for choosing seafood. Taste and health are the most important drivers of seafood consumption globally.
At the same time, origin is becoming increasingly important when evaluating seafood products in terms of quality, safety and sustainability. Country of origin is important for 98% of respondents. The weight given to origin is probably due to a number of food scandals in the region in recent years and this gives Norwegian players a big advantage, given the high standing of Norway as a seafood nation in general, and Norwegian salmon in particular.
More and more seafood is being bought from hypermarkets and supermarkets, mainly at the expense of more traditional seafood stores and delicatessens. About 65% of salmon is consumed in hospitality, with Japanese restaurants being the largest channel. In grocery stores, salmon portions are sold for cooking, as well as increasingly in ready- prepared forms such as sushi and sashimi.
At 37%, Norway has the second highest awareness as a seafood-producing nation. This compares to 32% and 27% in previous years. The corresponding figure for Japan in 2018 was 66%. Norwegian salmon has become more popular in Hong Kong in recent years, while Japan’s position remains unchanged.
Consumption of salmon in Hong Kong is expected to be around 14,000 to 15,000 tonnes. It is assumed that about 80% of the salmon in Hong Kong is consumed raw, in the form of dishes such as sushi and sashimi. Awareness for Norwegian salmon remains at 81% in 2018. Preference is at 59%, compared with 62% in 2017. In comparison, Chile had a preference of 1% in 2018. In terms of cod, 35% prefer Norwegian – up from 32% in 2015. Japan is also our biggest competitor in terms of cod, with a preference level of 15%.
High awareness regarding Norwegian salmon also causes it to be exposed to negative media coverage. We have previously seen cases in the media about parasites in salmon in general, and high levels of heavy metals and illegal antibiotics – as well as salmon lice – in Norwegian salmon. The Norwegian Seafood Council monitors the media in Hong Kong to catch such issues early.
Hong Kong is an open and international market. They have very liberal import conditions. Through EFTA, Norway has a free trade agreement with Hong Kong (from 2011) which includes a zero tariff on all seafood products. The conditions for direct trade with Hong Kong are considered to be good and predictable. With its proximity to mainland China, Hong Kong is also affected by trade relations between Norway and China. With more fresh salmon being exported from Norway to China, there is reason to believe that part of the rising exports to Hong Kong will end up in the southern regions of China.