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OSLO, Jan 4 (Reuters) - The price of Norwegian fish will continue to rise in 2017 as global demand outstrips supply and the Chinese market opens up following a normalisation of political relations, Fisheries Minister Per Sandberg predicted on Wednesday.
The value of exports rose by 23 percent in 2016 as prices of farmed salmon, the key product, jumped on strong demand, currency weakness and a drop in supply, Norway's state-owned Norwegian Seafood Council (NSC) said earlier.
"In terms of prices, it's quite obvious it'll be another record year in 2017, although it remains to be seen if it'll grow as much as it did last year. That depends on the market," Sandberg told Reuters on the sidelines of a conference.
"The supply of salmon doesn't seem to grow much in 2017, while the market is set to increase," he added.
In December, Oslo and Beijing agreed to normalise diplomatic and political ties, frozen since 2010 when Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and which had largely shut Norway's salmon exports out of a key market.
Following the deal, the two countries also agreed to resume negotiations on a free-trade agreement, which would further add to export potentials.
"We hope to make an agreement as fast as possible," Sandberg said, while cautioning that a deal may come sometime after 2017. (Reporting by Ole Petter Skonnord, editing by Terje Solsvik)