Mowi on Morpol coronavirus outbreak: “We have not deliberately held back information”

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Salmon giant criticised itself after unusually slow response to releasing market-sensitive information.

Between 80 and 90 per-cent of the weekly salmon trade is done away within a few hours every Friday. Last Friday, unconfirmed information in the market revealed that the world’s largest salmon buyer was affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

The extent to which Mowi’s factory in Ustka, Poland, was affected was unclear, but according to exporters and importers, the processing plant took down its orders to a significant extent. The huge processing plant currently has a theoretical capacity to refine as much as 11 per-cent of Norway’s annual salmon production and therefore has extensive market power.

Response
Despite repeated calls, by phone and email, to a number of key people in Mowi, it took almost four days for the publicly-traded company to respond to a case of potentially price-driven information.

SalmonBusiness received a response to his inquiries the night of Tuesday.

Mowi has obvious financial interests in withholding information here, but a holidaying communications manager Ola Helge Hjetland denied that this was done deliberately.

A lot on their plate
“It was a miss that we didn’t get to respond on Friday. We in Norway should have followed up better, but unfortunately, we didn’t get that done. We have not deliberately held back information for you or others, but we have a small team in Poland that has a lot on their plate during a time of holiday decommissioning,” he told SalmonBusiness.

“We just have to apologise for that,” he added.

How much has production been reduced at the facility?

“Production is only marginally affected. We don’t usually release numbers for the factories, but it’s not a case of any collapse. Production at the factory is marginally affected,” he stressed.

Infection control
“It is the case that the infection rates in Poland are unfortunately on the rise, generally speaking. As a large employer, with over 4,000 employees at this factory, we have of course prepared well that this situation could arise, ensured that infection control is the best possible, and that production is affected as little as possible. But securing 100 per-cent against employees being infected is of course very, very difficult,” said Hjetland.

“We are always in dialogue with customers and suppliers when something happens that gets media attention, but this is not a situation that worries customers or suppliers as we see it now. Of course, now it’s important for us to ensure that more employees don’t get infected and ensure that production can continue to the fullest extent possible,” he added.