Russia confident of increasing fish exportsBoth government and producers in Russia plan to step up seafood exports in the coming years. Photo: Rosrybolovstvo

Russia expects​ to increase fish exports in years to come, according to statements by leading industry figures, reports Eugene Gerden.

Under these plans, particular attention would be paid to increasing seafood exports to Latin American and EU markets.

According to German Zverev, head of the Russian Association of Fish Producers (VARPE), there are significant opportunities for Russian fish processors in Brazil, where an initial volume of 40,000 tonnes of cod and pollock fillets could be exported, with possibilities for this to be increased.

So far, Russian exports to Latin America have been modest, mainly due to logistics issues and lack of export licensing, but there is a likelihood that this situation could change in the short term.

At the end of last year VARPE asked the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and veterinary watchdog  Rosselkhoznadzor to accelerate talks with their Brazilian counterparts, with respect to opening Brazil’s market for Russian fish and seafood products. However, the onset of the pandemic resulted in the suspension of these plans.

According to the Federal Agency for Fisheries, efforts are being made to identify customer preferences, with fillet and minced fish seen as affordable products.

The Latin American region will be not the only global market, where the presence of Russian fish processors will be significantly strengthened, and similar plans are formulated for EU markets.

The Russian industry has hopes for increasing its supply of pollock fillets, with ambitious plans to gain close to 50% of the EU market for pollock fillets in coming years. Plans are for this to be carried out as part of the existing New Cod Industry programme in Russia, a state initiative which involves the increase of exports of seafood fish products with high added values from Russia to markets in Latin America, the US and the EU. Spain and Germany are reported to be seen as the most promising EU regions for Russian production.

In addition, Russian fish exporters are looking at increasing exports to the UK market, where they have already gained a foothold in recent years. According to an official spokesman for the Federal Agency for Fisheries, the UK has a steady demand for whitefish species.

So far, Norway has been the major rival for Russian fish producers on the UK seafood market and competition could become tougher.

In addition to western markets, Russian fishing companies and processors have no plans to lose ground on their traditional export markets, particularly those of China and South Korea. In the case of Korea, exports of chilled fresh pollock and fillet from Russia are predicted to significantly increase in the fourth quarter of this year.

At the same time, according to German Zverev, further export expansion is complicated by existing restrictions on domestic fisheries, which prevents market operators from co-ordinating their activities overseas, as this is considered by Russian regulators to constitute a cartel.

Representatives of major producers and processors have already warned the government that existing legislative restrictions may prevent implementation of ambitious state plans for the increase of fish exports from Russia of up to US$8.5 billion annually by 2025.

According to producers, in addition to easing existing legislative restrictions, there is also a need to accelerate environmental certification for Russian fisheries, including the gradual introduction of a national eco-certification.

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