Salmon imports into Malaysia look set to rise

By Zieman

(From left) Nur Qamarina, Chramer and Mæland showing off a 9kg Norwegian salmon during the event in Petaling Jaya.

Malaysians are beginning to acquire a taste for the flavourful pink salmon.

We have even localised the fish and turned them into curry and asam pedas. As a result of this, there has been growing demand for Norwegian salmon in Malaysia.

Norwegian salmon is one of Norway’s best-known international brands and the country is one of the world’s biggest producers of Atlantic salmon in the world. Each day, over 12 million meals of Norwegian salmon are served worldwide, including in South-East Asia.

Chok showed how best to pair the versatile fish with spices commonly used in South-East Asian cuisines.
Chok showed how best to pair the versatile fish with spices commonly used in South-East Asian cuisines.

Norway’s Minister of Trade and Industry, Monica Maeland, was here recently to launch a Norwegian salmon promotion at the Aeon supermarket in Petaling Jaya.

The minister’s official visit was also to talk about Norwegian businesses in Malaysia.

“Norway aims to strengthen its bilateral trade with Malaysia by increasing total exports of its products this year.

“Our main export to Malaysia is oil and gas products, followed by telecommunications products, agricultural and seafood products,” said Maeland.

Malaysia is an important country for Norwegian commerce, with 50 Norwegian businesses established here. The most important sectors include oil and gas, maritime, and telecoms. Norwegian businesses that are active in Malaysia include Telenor, Jotun, Aker Solutions, DNV GL, Norsk Hydro, Jorda, Q-Free, and Wilhelmsen.

A good deal of the salmon imported into Malaysia is used in Japanese restaurants for sushi and sashimi.
A good deal of the salmon imported into Malaysia is used in Japanese restaurants for sushi and sashimi.

Maeland is not only familiar with the marketing of Norwegian salmon here, but has also committed herself to improving the marketing conducted by the Norwegian Seafood Council (NSC) in Malaysia.

She also met International Trade and Industry Minister Mustapa Mohamed to further discuss the future of bilateral trade between the two countries.

“There is a possibility for Norway to export more fish, especially to Malaysia, as we are the second largest exporter of fish in the world,” she said.

During the salmon promotion held at the Aeon supermarket in Damansara Utama, a huge Norwegian salmon weighing about 9kg was put on display.

Singaporean celebrity chef Jimmy Chok, known for fusing Asian flavours with European cooking techniques, was on hand to demonstrate the many creative ways of cooking Norwegian salmon.

Chok showed how best to pair the versatile fish with spices commonly used in South-East Asian cuisines, by cooking Grilled Salmon with Percik marinade and Salmon Kebab with coriander yoghurt.

“Salmon has a distinctive flavour that blends well with the strong Asian spices. Salmon has to be cooked slowly in low heat to retain the moisture of the fish. Never over-fry the fish. It’s best to keep it slightly raw in the middle.

“Whatever you do with salmon, never overcook it as it is a delicate fish,” said the award-winning Chok, who has become an advocate of quality Norwegian salmon.

The salmon event was organised by the Norwegian Seafood Council (NSC) and Innovation Norway, with the support of Aeon Co (M) Bhd.

The Norwegian salmon for the event was imported and supplied by Euro-Atlantic Sdn Bhd, a leading importer and distributor of marine produce, speciality fruits and vegetables based in Kuala Lumpur.

According to Hans Ola Urstad, Norway’s ambassador to Malaysia, trade between Norway and Malaysia has more than doubled in the last decade.

“Norwegian investments in the country are significant. The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and Malaysia launched its Free Trade Agreement negotiations in November 2012.

“The minister’s visit will promote Norwegian businesses in the region and help to promote the free trade agreement negotiations with Malaysia. The visit to Malaysia emphasises the importance of the Asean region to Norwegian industrial and trade interests,” he said.

Norway imported RM980mil worth of goods from Malaysia last year. In the same period the Nordic country exported RM1.08bil worth of its goods to Malaysia.

The country imported textiles and palm oil from Malaysia. Norway produces 1.1 million tonnes of salmon a year and salmon represents 65% of the country’s fish exports.

The Norwegian Government Pension Fund — Global has approximately RM5.5bil invested in 79 companies in Malaysia.

Norway expects to increase the volume of its salmon exports by 5% to 10% this year from 1,900 tonnes last year.

“This target should be achievable thanks to the changing lifestyle of Malaysians. Apart from rising health consciousness, the increase in income levels as well as increasing sushi demand will also contribute towards a higher volume in salmon exports to Malaysia,” said NSC regional director for South-East Asia Christian Chramer.

Chramer, who is in charge of promoting Norwegian seafood in this region, said NSC’s main purpose is to foster global interest in Norwegian seafood and provide accurate, wide-ranging information on the seafood industry and conducting marketing activities.

“Norway is one of the world’s biggest producers of Atlantic salmon, with 60% of the total production going to the European market and 40% for Asian market. The demand for salmon is getting higher because consumers are more health conscious these days. This is reflected in their diet and they are turning to imported food like salmon since salmon is rich in nutrients and a good source of protein, vitamins D, A and B12, iodine, antioxidants and vital marine Omega-3 fatty acids,” Chramer said.

France is the most important consumer market for Norwegian salmon followed by Russia and Germany. According to a survey, 80% of French consumers consider salmon as their favourite food for Christmas.

Nearly 70% of all Norwegian salmon is exported to Eastern Europe. In 2011, exports of Norwegian salmon to Eastern Europe totalled 560,000 tonnes.

As for Asia Chramer said, “There are six major markets in this region alone, namely Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and Taiwan. The latter is our biggest importer while Malaysia and Indonesia share the fifth spot.”

Air-flown Norwegian salmon can arrive in Malaysia in as little as 48 hours after leaving Norway’s cold, clear water. Salmon is best consumed on the day of purchase. Fresh salmon can be frozen for up to two months in the freezer when wrapped properly.

Fresh salmon, said Chramer, should never smell fishy and the eyes should be bright and clear while the flesh of the fillet should be firm, moist and brightly coloured.

Nowadays, Norwegian salmon can be found in leading sushi restaurants, hotels, restaurants and supermarkets in Malaysia.

“Since fish protein contains all the essential amino acids and salmon is a good source of protein, we are trying to present salmon to Malaysians by giving different recipes on how to combine our salmon with your local taste.

“It’s very inspiring to see the change among Malaysians who are adopting more healthy lifestyles, and trying foods like salmon. Besides promoting salmon, we also try to present the health aspects of eating salmon,” he said.

He noticed Malaysians are fond of adding the different spices to salmon to enhance the taste, making it more vibrant and flavourful.

“I’m amazed at how creative Malaysians are in cooking salmon with their spices. We now have salmon in kebab, tika, teriyaki, percik and curry styles, besides the common oven-baked and grilled salmon.

“There are endless ways of cooking your salmon, which is both healthy and tasty,” said Chramer who has been with NSC for the last seven years.

The increasing demand for salmon is also due to the stable economy of Malaysians and the trend among young consumers of consuming more sushi and sashimi, with salmon as one of the main ingredients.

Meanwhile, Aeon Co (M) Bhd managing director Nur Qamarina Chew Abdullah said the company imports RM7mil worth of salmon, or 15 tonnes, every month.

Of the amount imported, Norway contributed some 80% and the rest came from Chile, New Zealand and Tasmania.

“Aeon is also looking at increase in salmon imports by 10% every month,” she said.

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