Brim buys 10.83% of Iceland Seafood International

Golli. A Brim ship in Akranes, West Iceland

Icelandic seafood company Brim has bought a 10.83% share in Iceland Seafood International (ISI), RÚV reports. The purchase entails the entire share of Bjarni Ármannsson’s company Sjávarsýn in ISI. Bjarni is also the CEO of Iceland Seafood but is resigning from the position.

Even prior to the sale, Brim was one of Iceland’s largest and most profitable seafood companies. With this purchase, the company intends to strengthen its sales network in Europe. The sale was announced to the stock exchange last night, as both Brim and Iceland Seafood are listed on Nasdaq Iceland’s main market. Brim paid over ISK 1.6 billion [$11.7 million, €11 million] for the shares.

Sold for one thousand pounds after losses

Iceland Seafood has faced difficulties in operations recently. The company sustained considerable losses in the operations of its subsidiary Iceland Seafood UK, which was eventually sold to the Danish company Espersen for the small sum of one thousand pounds. Iceland Seafood’s loss in the first half of the year amounted to ISK 2.2 billion [$16 million, €15.1 million].

The share price in Iceland Seafood last weekend stood at ISK 5.3 [$0.04, €0.04] per share and had never been lower since the company went public four years ago. The price rose by 4.72% at the opening of the market this morning in a transaction worth ISK 22 million [$160,000, €151,000].

Brim to strengthen sales network

Iceland Seafood is one of the main exporters of seafood in Iceland and operates offices in seven countries in Europe, North America, and South America. According to Brim’s CEO Guðmundur Kristjánsson, this is exactly what Brim is looking for with the purchase. The goal is to strengthen Brim’s sales network, especially with regard to markets in Europe.

Bjarni Ármannsson will step down as Iceland Seafood’s CEO and will be replaced by Ægir Páll Friðbertsson, managing director of Brim.

43% of Iceland’s exported goods

The Icelandic seafood industry is one of the country’s key industries, employing around 7,500 people or approximately 3.9% of the workforce. The seafood industry contributes around 8% directly to Iceland’s GDP, but its indirect contributions are much greater. Marine products account for 43% of the value of Iceland’s exported goods.

Consolidated wealth

Just four companies hold around 60% of Iceland’s fishing quota: Samherji, Brim, KS, and Ísfélagið. In 2021, Brim reported profits of ISK 11.3 billion [$88.8 million; €82.9 million].

In a column published in Morgunblaðið last year, Minister of Fisheries Svandís Svavarsdóttir stated that the nation viewed the consolidation of fishing quota in so few hands as deeply unjust and that it felt that this collective resource was not distributed fairly.

Opposition MP and former Social-Democratic Alliance Chairman Logi Einarsson pointed out that the wealth in the fishing industry was leading to accumulated assets in unrelated sectors, such as the media, real estate, transport, grocery stores, energy, and even insurance and banking.

Proposed Sand Mine Would Operate Trucks at 7- to 8-Minute Intervals Along Ring Road

Mýrdalssandur

Large transport trucks could be driving along Iceland’s South Coast at 7- to 8-minute intervals – 24 hours a day – if German company EP Power Minerals’ plan to open a sand mine east of Vík is realised. The sand would be exported to Europe and possibly North America, where it would be used as an additive in cement. The company plans to ship the material from Þorlákshöfn, but the local mayor says the town does not have adequate facilities for its storage and EP Power Minerals is yet to apply for a lot in the harbour.

An environmental evaluation of the proposal published earlier this month judged the project’s impact on traffic and noise pollution to be “considerably negative.” Its impact on birdlife, plant life, and the geology of the area was, however, evaluated as “insignificantly negative.”

Former landowners tried to sell to Icelandic state

EP Power Minerals purchased the land where the proposed mine is to be located in 2020. Some 15 km [9.3 mi] east of Vík í Mýrdal, the property stretches from Kötlujökull glacier down to the coast, and consists mostly of sand plains.

The property was listed for sale in 2016 by its former owners, three siblings who have stated that they made several unsuccessful attempts to sell it to the Icelandic state. The land was sold to EP Power Minerals through the company Mýrdalssandur ehf., in which three Icelanders own a 10% share (through the company Lásastígur ehf.).

Trucks at 7- to 8-minute intervals

The proposed mine would be located by Hafursey mountain and north of the Ring Road, which runs through the property. The proposed mining area covers 15.5 square kilometres and it is estimated that the usable sand within the area measures around 146 million cubic metres. According to the mining plans, there should be enough material within that area for 100 years of mining.

EP Power Minerals plans to transport the sand by truck to Þorlákshöfn. The amount of material would entail a full truck leaving the mine every 15 minutes, and empty trucks returning from Þorlákshöfn at the same rate. This means that transport trucks will be driving at 7-8 minute intervals 24 hours a day along the ring road between Vík and Hveragerði, as well as on the roads between Hveragerði and Þorlákshöfn.

Concerns about impact on traffic and roads

Residents of the capital area and South Iceland have expressed concern at the impact this transport would have on traffic and roads in the area. Jóhannes Þór Skúlason, CEO of the Icelandic Travel Industry Association, also expressed concern about the impact the mine and its associated traffic would have.

“There has been talk about the tourism industry in that regard, but it’s recognised that one heavy truck such as those that transport fish between regions, it damages the road to the equivalent of 10,000 Yaris cars or small rental cars,” Jóhannes Þór told Vísir, expressing doubt as to whether road infrastructure could handle so much heavy transport. He added that a project such as the mine would affect the experience of tourists in the area.

Environmental impacts considered negligible

The environmental evaluation conducted by Efla and published earlier this month judged many of the mine’s negative impacts to be negligible. Its impact on plant life and birdlife in the area was considered “insignificantly negative,” as the sand plains in question are not a habitat for endangered or protected plant species and the mine would not greatly impact nesting areas.

Despite the fact that the mine would have a “direct and permanent effect on the sedimentation of Mýrdalssandur,” the effect would only be on a “tiny percentage of the total formation,” lowering the surface by 10 metres at a site where the sand is 120 metres thick. Therefore, Efla’s assessment was that the overall impact on geological formations would be “insignificantly negative.” The same was determined of the mine’s impact on tourism and outdoor recreation in the area.

The project’s climate impact was considered to be “considerably positive,” as the material produced would replace cement clinker and would therefore reduce carbon emissions due to concrete production by 800 million kg of CO2 equivalents annually (when emissions due to transportation are taken into account).

Value of Exported Goods Increases Significantly

Eimskip Dettifoss

The value of exported industrial, marine and agricultural products has increased significantly over the past three years, RÚV reports (referencing compiled statistics published in Fréttablaðið).

During the first four months of 2022, goods have been exported for almost ISK 319 billion ($2.3 billion / €2.3 billion), compared to ISK 197 billion (($1.5 billion / €1.4 billion) during the same period in 2020.

The value of exported marine products amounted to ISK 118 billion ($874 million / €842 million) during the first four months of this year, compared to ISK 81 billion ($600 million / €578 million) in 2020.

The value of exported agricultural goods, including farmed fish, totalled ISK 20 billion ($148 million / €143 million) during the first four months of 2022, compared to ISK 11 billion ($81 million / €79 million) in 2020.

Finally, the value of exported industrial products is up by 75% – from ISK 99 billion ($733 million / €707 million) to ISK 175 billion ($1.3 billion / €1.2 billion) – during the first four months of this year as compared to 2020. A significant factor in that regard is that exported aluminium’s value has doubled compared to two years ago.

Record Sales of Icelandic Yarn in 2021

wool yarn

Sales of knitting yarn grew by 50% last year at Ístex, the company that processes about 99% of all Icelandic wool. Ístex is considering introducing night shifts at their factory to increase production. The company’s CEO hopes to invest more in the company in order to reach bigger markets in Asia, the United States, and Russia.

The year 2021 was a record year for Ístex both in revenue and profit, Viðskiptablaðið reports. The company’s revenue grew by 44% between years, to ISK 1.2 billion [$9.7 million, €8.5 million] last year. The company made a profit of ISK 93.4 million [$751,000, €661,000] last year, especially impressive compared to the year 2020, when Ístex reported losses of ISK 67.5 million [$543,000, €477,000]. In 2021, the company saw a 50% rise in sales of lopi knitting yarn.

Read More: Icelandic Wool Export Up 70% in Pandemic

Ístex CEO Sigurður Sævar Gunnarsson says last year’s sales of knitting yarn are likely a historical record for Iceland. More people have taken up their knitting needles in the pandemic, which has led to increased sales both in Iceland and abroad. “We expect continued demand despite the fact that the effects of the COVID pandemic are decreasing. In this light we can mention that after the banking collapse of 2008 there was a big increase in hand knitting, especially in Iceland, that really never decreased.”

Ístex has introduced evening shifts to its factory, but is still not managing to meet demand. The company is now considering introducing night shifts as well. Sigurður would like to see increased investment in the company so that it can pursue larger markets. “There are certain opportunities fr us now and we have to fish for them. There are certain markets where we haven’t been able to gain ground.” He particularly mentions the United States and Asia, though Russia is another market that is likely to grow quickly.

More Icelandic Horses Exported This Year Than Ever

Icelandic horse

More than 3000 horses have been exported this year, an increase of more than 1000 since last year. This is a record high in export numbers and more than double the export numbers of just two years ago.

The last record was set in 1996 when 2,841 Icelandic horses were exported in one year, but in 2010-2019 the numbers ranged from 1100-1500. This year, 3,341 horses have left Iceland, 361 studs, 1,426 geldings, and 1,554 mares. Of these, 845 horses were certified A, meaning that both the horse and its parents had undergone DNA analysis proving its family history.

The top three export countries are Germany, Denmark, and Sweden, with 2,467 of the total exported horses, Germany alone receiving 1,477. This is according to data from Worldfengur, published by The Icelandic Agricultural Advisory Centre.

Once they’ve left Iceland, the horses can never return. Importing horses is prohibited to protect the Icelandic horse breed that has lived in isolation in Iceland for centuries.

Read more on Icelandic horses: Raising Riders (for subscribers)

Icelandic Horse Export Suspended Following Fatal Accident

Icelandic horse

Update Jan 14: Two export companies have reported that export of Icelandic horses to Liège, Belgium will resume on January 20. Icelandair Cargo has stated that while they are still ironing out the details with Liege authorities, that is indeed the case.

Export of Icelandic horses to Liège, Belgium has been suspended indefinitely following an accident caused by human error at Liege airport last month. A container with horses fell off a platform, causing severe injury to two horses and minor injuries to a third. The two badly injured horses had to be put down. Bændablaðið reported first.

Boom in Export of Icelandic Horses

The decision to halt export indefinitely will have a huge impact on Icelandic horse farmers and Icelandic horse enthusiasts in mainland Europe. By far the largest market for Icelandic horses abroad is in Germany, and all horses that are exported to that country go through Liège. Export of Icelandic horses grew by 50% in 2020 as compared to the previous year.

Around 2,000 Icelandic horses were exported to new homes abroad last year, and after Germany, their most common destinations were Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. Icelandic horses fetch a fine price abroad: one prized stallion set a new record last year when he was sold to a buyer in Denmark, reportedly for tens of millions of krónur, or hundreds of thousands of US dollars.

Human Error Caused Horse Injuries

Mikael Tal Grétarsson, Export Manager at Icelandair Cargo, stated that the incident was not due to an equipment malfunction but rather to human error. “We have been transporting horses in specially-equipped containers since 1995 with similar equipment and it has been very successful,” Mikael told Bændablaðið. “We have certain procedures that we follow and our subcontractors should also follow. Then it happens that an employee in Belgium doesn’t follow work procedure, he doesn’t fasten the container sufficiently, so it falls about 50 centimetres from the platform and therefore this accident occurs. This is a human error and we had to put down two horses in consultation with their owners and a veterinarian at the site. One additional horse had minor injuries but did not need to be put down.”

According to Mikael, Belgian authorities have now suspended horse imports from Iceland and Icelandair Cargo will be required to adapt their procedure to the country’s recently-updated import regulations. “We need to better understand how we can fulfil them and have, among other things, met with [the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority] here at home to review work procedures. This is a matter of great interest to horse farmers and we take accidents like this very seriously, as we always put safety and welfare in first place.”

Read more about the Icelandic horse and its international appeal.

Historic Hjörleifshöfði Estate Sold to Sand Mining Companies

Hjörleifshöfði

Hjörleifshöfði mountain and the black sand beach surrounding it have been sold to two companies, one Icelandic and one German. The companies plan to mine and sell sand from the location for use in sandblasting and cement making. The price tag of the South Iceland site has not been made public, though Vísir’s sources pin it at ISK 500 million ($3.96 million/€3.27 million) or more. The land’s previous owners say they made several unsuccessful attempts to sell the historic property to the Icelandic state.

A Historic Locale

Hjörleifshöfði is a 221-metre tall mountain located on a black sand plain, near the southernmost tip of Iceland, some 15 kilometres east of the town of Vík í Mýrdal. It was named by one of the first legendary settlers of Iceland, Hjörleifr Hróðmarsson, who settled there at the end of the ninth century, and he is said to be buried on it.

The land area bought by the two companies includes both Hjörleifshöfði and Hafursey mountains. It stretches from Kötlujökull glacier down to the sea and consists mostly of sand plains. The Ring Road, or Route 1, passes through the land.

Sandblasting and Concrete

Jóhann Vignir Hróbjartsson, Páll Tómasson, and Victor Berg Guðmundsson are the purchasers of the land, which measures over 11,000 hectares, through their company Mýrdalssandur ehf. alongside German company STEAG Power Minerals. The new owners plan to mine and sell sand from the location, an idea they have researched and developed since as early as 2008. The raw materials will be used in concrete and sandblasting and will mostly be exported for sale.

The companies plan to set up two sand mines on the land to begin with, though possibly more in the future. They have already made agreements with other landowners in the area regarding processing of the raw materials. Jóhann, Páll, and Victor state that environmental considerations are paramount to the company, which also plans to develop tourism at the location to attract local and foreign tourists.

Government Showed Little Interest

The Hjörleifshöfði estate previously belonged to three siblings: Þórir Kjartansson, Áslaug Kjartansdóttir, and Halla Kjartansdóttir. It was listed for sale around four years ago. Þórir told Vísir that the siblings made several unsuccessful attempts to sell the land to the Icelandic state. He says neither the previous government nor the current one showed much interest in the historic land. “I tried for a long time to get a meeting with [Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir] through her secretary to discuss the issue but without success. Then I decided to send her a personal letter, which I knew she would receive, where I included all the main information about the land along with pictures and more and asked her to contact me either by phone or email.” Þórir never received a response.

Icelandic Wool Export Up 70% in Pandemic

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Icelandic lopi wool export has shot up by 70%, RÚV reports. Lopi is the yarn used to make Icelandic traditional sweaters, or lopapeysur, and is known for being both warm and waterproof. While several European countries have been importing Icelandic wool in larger quantities, it seems that knitters are picking up their needles in Iceland as well.

It’s not surprising that the pastime of knitting has grown in popularity this year, thanks to social restrictions and lockdowns imposed due to the pandemic. Yet an increase of 70% is quite a rise for Iceland’s main wool processer. “We are almost sending out one or two forty-feet containers of hand-knitting yarn per week,” says Sigurður Sævar Gunnarsson, director of Ístex, which processes about 99% of all Icelandic wool.

In order to meet demand, Ístex has hired more workers to cover evening shifts. The company hopes to increase production by 100 tonnes by next year. While Icelanders, Germans, Swedes, and Norwegians have all shown an increased appetite for Icelandic wool and knitting patterns, Finnish knitters have shown a particular enthusiasm.

Sigurður says Ístex has been receiving calls from lopapeysa knitters who can’t find a particular colour when it has been sold out in shops.

Icelandic Lamb Exported to China for the First Time

Icelandic lamb

The first shipment of Icelandic lamb was exported to China this week, RÚV reports. Björn Víkingur Björnsson, CEO of Fjallalamb Ltd, says the meat was well received, which bodes well for increased export opportunities in the near future.

Icelandic lamb producer Fjallalamb is the first and, so far, only company to have been granted a license to export lamb to China and has been working to get its product onto the Chinese market for two years, ever since the two countries revised the terms of their free trade agreement in 2018. Per the revised terms, exported lamb must receive a health certification; exported meat may only come from lambs under six months of age that were born and bred in scrapie-free regions. Slaughterhouses, meat packing centres, and storage centres where the meat is processed or held must also be located in scrapie-free regions. Fjallalamb is currently the only Icelandic lamb producer to fulfil these requirements.

Fjallalamb’s first test shipment contained around 20 tonnes of lamb. Björn Víkingur says that it took a long time to find companies that could connect Fjallalamb with the market it’s seeking to enter in China, namely “high-class restaurants.”

The CEO continued that his company’s Chinese customers “are extremely interested – they’ve tasted the meat and want to make an ongoing agreement.”

At the time that Fjallalamb received its export license, Björn Víkingur said that it was not possible for the company to sell all its product on the Icelandic market. In order to meet demand in China, however, it’s likely that the company will need to increase its production, although it’s unclear at this time by just how much. “If it works out that farmers can increase production and if, as I think is likely, China wants more in the fall if all goes well, then this could be a promising situation.”

Icelandic Waste Exported to Europe

recycling in iceland

Waste from South Iceland is being used in the Netherlands to heat houses and in Denmark to produce electricity, Vísir reports. The export is a recent development and was spurred by the closure of a landfill in the region.

After a landfill site in the municipality of Ölfus was closed, South Iceland towns have had difficulties finding a final resting place for their waste. No other municipality was willing to dedicate land area to a new disposal site, and waste from the region was driven long distances to other parts of the country. Now some municipalities in the region, including Ölfus, have begun to export their waste.

Jón Þórir Frantzson is the director of Íslenska gámafélagið (IGF), which manages waste for many Icelandic municipalities, industrial firms, and businesses. He says the export has gotten off to a good start. “They sort all the waste into four categories. One category is that which is called non-recyclable and that we’ve exported to Rotterdam for the past three months and that is used for heating Dutch people’s houses and that’s gone very well. Of course this is the second-worst option but it’s good in the sense that there we’re talking about incineration, which is in competition with coal and nuclear energy. We know that coal is very environmentally bad and nuclear energy is very dangerous, so this is something that’s positive.”

Jón says the waste is being transported in containers that were otherwise returning to Europe empty. He hopes to arrange for all South Iceland municipalities to export their waste abroad. “We have also made contracts with Aalborg [in Denmark] as 31% of all the electricity which is produced in Aalborg is produced in a waste incinerator and all the water which is heated in houses goes through the waste incinerator.” Jón says there are more countries interested in importing waste from Iceland.