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Market crying out for frozen herring

'There's a big shortage of frozen herring products across our markets that doesn't correspond to demand. We can say that the market is crying out for frozen herring. Stocks are zero and production this summer has been less than in past years,' says HB Grandi's pelagic sales manager Jón Helgason, who also has responsibility for sales in Eastern Europe.

The company expects to have shore production of frozen Atlanto-Scandian herring underway by early September, which will be followed by the Icelandic summer-spawning herring when that fishery begins and the condition of the fish makes it worthwhile.

'The Atlanto-Scandian herring we have been catching this summer has had such a high fat content that it hasn't been suitable for production and freezing ashore. Those who can freeze at sea have been able to do so, and this is where the supply of frozen herring products has been coming from this summer. The Norwegian producers have produced less quantity in second quarter of this year, compared to past years,' says Jón Helgason, commenting that as long as the fat content of the herring is over 18%, the fish are generally not suitable for shore freezing.

HB Grandi has been producing mainly butterfly fillets and some skinless fillets. The company has enough remaining Atlanto-Scandian herring quota, but also has the Icelandic herring when that fishery starts.

'Normally we start by producing butterfly fillets and when production is in progress, we also move into skinless fillets when the fat content has dropped down to approx 13%,' says Jón Helgason.

Icelandic producers in a strong position.

The main markets for Icelandic frozen herring are Russia, the Ukraine and Poland, with sales also to Lithuania and Western European countries such as France and Germany.  Jón Helgason comments that prices have been strong due to the shortage, but these could well decline a bit when the amount of herring product available increases.

'Things look good all round. We have enough quota, prices have been good and the exchange rate is in our favour. We sell in US dollars to Russia and the Ukraine. The herring we export to Poland is normally sold in Norwegian kronur or Euros. All of these currencies have risen against the Icelandic króna since last year, some of them substantially. Sales to France and Germany are in Euros, and although these are not necessarily big markets compared to Eastern Europe, they are still very much worth our while. Last year we sold close to 2000 tonnes of frozen herring products to these countries, and I expect we will sell similar or even more quantity into Germany and France this year,' says Jón Helgason.