Russian trout farmers struggling to cope without feeds from Europe
At the end of October in Karelia (region in Northwest Russia), commercial farmers began harvesting commodity trout. The start of the 2022 season came the local fish farmers as a shock. As a result of the sanctions pressure, the domestic market was left without the main suppliers of fish feeds. Up to 85% of feeds were produced by EU companies who stopped shipments to Russia. In mid-November 2022 the industry insiders and experts were interviewed by the Russian media group RBC about the process of import substitution and their forecast for the sector’s future.
There is currently no acute shortage on the fish feed market. But during the season, fluctuations in supplies and availability were felt one way or another. After the initial shock, when popular foreign suppliers from Denmark, Finland and France announced their decision to leave the Russian market, and trout producers were forced to quickly look for alternative options, a period of field work began. Now trout farmers are starting to harvest fish and will be able to evaluate the results of the suppliers found or proposed.
"The anxious mood faded somewhere by the middle of summer, when it became clear that there were alternative solutions in Russia and abroad. Many domestic feed options have appeared — in Gatchina, Novosibirsk, and in the Far East. Contacts with Iran and Turkey have taken off. Import offers have been preserved — from Italy and Spain. These products vary in price and quality. Therefore, the season turned out to be experimental," says the head of Karelia’s Association of Trout Breeders Vitaly Artamonov. Since it was difficult for suppliers to provide the necessary volumes, fish farmers used 2-9 formulas from different manufacturers. Some companies have chosen to work with only one or a maximum of two brands. Others — with several at once. It is too early to assess the results in terms of color, fat content, and taste, the expert believes, one thing is obvious — they will vary.
"We tried products from different manufacturers. We mainly worked with Miratorg. Since October 24, we have started harvesting commercial trout for sale in w/r form. We are waiting for feedback from processors. Harvesting trout for gutting is in November-December, we will analyze the results," says Artem Kozyrev, General Director of Onega Trout and Zaonezhskaya Trout LLC.
One the main problems of the industry in providing feeds are the lack of proven feed formulas that are effective for weight gaining and the limited capacity of feed production facilities. "The plant in Belgorod has been developing a formula with the specific ratio of trace elements, fat content and other parameters for several years. Therefore, it takes time for successful import substitution. Now one plant cannot meet the needs. There are not enough volumes for everyone," says Artem Kozyrev.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries of Karelia also says that the total capacity of domestic production cannot currently provide a complete solution to the issue of import substitution for aquaculture enterprises.
"The capacity of the Karelian fish feed plant operating in the Republic since 2017 has been increased to 7.5 thousand metric tons of feed per year with a 3—shift operation mode, which can provide no more than 15% of the total feed needs of the region," according to the Ministry.
The Association of Trout Farmers notes that the construction of new plants can help solve the problem. One of these is planned to be launched in Karelia in 2023, by August they expect to receive the first trial batch. "If we assume that it will operate at 80% of the design capacity, then this could meet the needs in the region," Vitaly Artamonov believes.
In addition to the construction of new facilities, there are also hopes for cooperation with countries near and far abroad — Iran, Turkey, Belarus. This month, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, a total of 10 thousand tons of Belarusian feed were delivered to the Republic of Karelia and the Murmansk region. By the end of the year, the shipments from Belarus are expected to exceed 60 thousand tonnes. In addition, some European countries and Armenia keep on delivering fish feeds to Russia.
According to Karelia’s Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, over the period 2017-2021, the aquaculture output in Karelia increased by 40.7% (from 24.8 thousand tonnes in 2017 to 34.9 thousand tonnes in 2021). In 2022, there are 74 fish farms that altogether plan to grow 35.5 thousand tonnes of fish of different ages.