Everybody has a liking to Norwegian salmon: Norway’s export of salmon, fresh and frozen combined, increased year-on-year, during the first nine months of 2009 by 12 percent, to 489,000 tonnes. While frozen salmon products are transported by sea, fresh salmon is a darling to the global airfreight industry: during this year’s first nine months no less than 55,000 tonnes of Norway’s salmon export went by air to selling points around the world, making this one of Europe’s largest airfreight commodities. During these nine months, 40,000 tonnes of fresh salmon were airlifted to markets in the Far East, an increase by 18 percent.
But growth-wise, the North American markets were at the front with a 622 percent increase in volumes, to 13,000 tonnes. Behind this extraordinary growth is the fact that the traditional main provider of salmon to the US market, Chile is currently hit by a recurring salmon disease that will take years to heal. In the meantime Norway is intent on securing a lasting foothold in the affluent North American markets for salmon products.
As the industry expects the surge in demand for Norwegian fresh salmon to endure beyond 2009, it is safe to assume that the total volume of Norway’s salmon export by air may this year reach some 70-75,000 tonnes. So, like everyone else airlines are hungry for Norwegian salmon - be it Korean Air, Air France/KLM, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways, Finnair, Asiana, British Airways, SAS or Lufthansa Cargo. European and Asian airlines are heavily competing for a share in the salmon shipments.
All carriers are depending on trucking, so in the end the competition is fierce, says Kjell Westby, Lufthansa Cargo manager Norway. "For the Norwegian salmon to hit the shelves in the Far East, about four days of total transportation time is required. The salmon is harvested at the production sites on, say, Monday morning, packed on pallets for trucking into Oslo by afternoon and arrives there after five or six hours on the road. The products are then palletized for airlift early Tuesday, leave for Frankfurt Airport before noon Tuesday and arrive at Lufthansa Cargo in Frankfurt by 9 or 10 a.m. Wednesday, in time for flights to the Far East after noon and arriving in, say, Japan on Thursday before noon."
The fresh salmon has seven days before expiry, requiring only what comes close to normal fridge temperatures but is of course under continuous temperature control all the way in the process at Lufthansa Cargo. Due to the high density and moderate rates of the salmon shipments the ideal solution is to combine it with shipments of lower density and higher rates, and thus salmon shipments are excellent airfreight commodities, says Kjell Westby.
During the first nine months of 2009, Lufthansa Cargo has generated about 7.500 tonnes of Norwegian salmon shipments to Japan, corresponding to a market share about 13 percent and still growing in volume through the year. Measured in tonnage, some 65 percent of Lufthansa Cargo ́s Norwegian export consists of seafood shipments. The remaining 35 percent of Norwegian tonnage comprise commodities like ships spares and general cargo.
"We are constantly hungry for more salmon", says Kjell Westby - and laughs.