“The hospitality sector in the US is a lot bigger than in other countries, therefore the effect of this will be much greater”

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The US is the country in the world with the greatest intake of eating out pr. capita. With the states developing to maybe be the epicentre of the corona pandemic the whole seafood industry is set out. Many companies and citizens will and are already not able to earn enough for a living.

“The hospitality sector in the US is a lot bigger than in other countries, therefore the effect of this will be much greater. It is a very unclear situation, but many point out that a lot of companies within the sector will not survive. Companies are scared that the entire sector will break down,” says Egil Ove Sundheim, US Director located in Boston for the Norwegian Seafood Council.

During the last couple of weeks Sundheim has had a hard time reaching any processors or suppliers as everyone is busy trying out to save their bits and pieces and make sure they don’t speak without facts. Which at this moment is very hard, as the situation is constantly changing and has no basis on earlier experiences.

“The disruption in the restaurant industry combined with the boost in traditional retail as well as online purchases is changing the way seafood is traded these days. There is also significant uncertainty of the long-term effects of the crisis, both on the consumer behaviour and on any changes in the purchasing power of consumers and businesses when this situation is over,” Sundheim explains.

US director for Norwegian Seafood: Egil Ove Sundheim.
Photo: Marius Fiskum © Norwegian Seafood Council

Egil Ove Sundheim estimates the importation of salmon to the US from Norway has decreased by 50-80 pct. during the last weeks but does not yet have exact numbers.

“This will have long time consequences for the entire industry, also the salmon industry,” he says.

Higher prices on freight
Prices on cargo freight to the US have according to several sources increases by 20-30 pct. more. The rise in price is due to fewer passenger flights to the US, which are the usual transportation routes for most seafood.

Even though sales on e-commerce are increasing the American costumer is not used to buying fresh seafood over e-commerce. Here the preferred choice is over the counter. Therefore, it is not likely that this channel can take on enough to compensate for the decrease in the hospitality sector over the next period.