Murmansk fish exporters in suspense over Chinese restrictions

January 13, 2021 09:03

Murmansk fishermen exporting part of their catch to China via Europe are facing a potential bottleneck for their shipments due to stricter Chinese requirements in response to COVID-19 occurrence on packed frozen fish, reports

In particular, the companies that want to export non-living products to China starting from January 1, 2021 must be on a new list of approved exporters while China also wants a new form of Health Certificate providing for the so-called COVID-free guarantees.

However, at least as per mid-January the Russian seafood sales to China via Norway are proceeding as usual, Norwegian buyers tell their Murmansk counterparts because the Chinese have given them an indefinite delay for the new rules to come into force. But it is quite unnerving that there is no exact date for the postponement, and everyone is afraid that it will end suddenly, and the fish will get stuck in Norway.

Murmansk exports to China mostly HG products for further processing. They include large quantities of HG cod, haddock, halibut and redfish as well as smaller volumes of WR herring, mackerel and shrimp.

On the other hand, cod and haddock fillets are sold directly to Europe and America. Accordingly, the buyers are ready to pick the product up in any port, including Holland, and the Chinese requirements will not apply.

In case of problems with China, the alternative is to supply raw materials to onshore plants in Murmansk, but there are some complications.

For example, one Murmansk fisherman explained that his company processes HG cod, haddock and by-catch at their land-based factory. But since the customers prefer single-frozen fish, the company buys raw material for the factory from the inshore fishermen.  Frozen catch is shipped to Murmansk for processing in exceptional cases just to avoid idle periods. Then double-frozen items are produced, also finding their buyers, but at a lower price.

Sometimes it is more profitable for the fishermen to sell HG fish unloaded in Norway for export while buying HG material for the factories from other fishing companies that constantly land catches in Murmansk only.

In addition, an increase of fish processing in Murmansk is hampered by the lack of coldstores, berths, dockworkers, etc. Even now, when Murmansk Fish Port complains of short landings, a reefer vessel can lay unloading for a week.

Dutch alarm

Last December the Russian exporters received an alarm of the emerging problem from buyers in Holland. According to the Dutch, two things may be hindering the export of non-living products to China as of January 1, 2021: 

  1. The absence of an agreement on an export certificate, and
  2. The performance of company inspections according to the new guidelines set by China.

Dutch Fishing Federation advice as per December

Taking into account major export barriers to China, in the worst case scenario, exports to China can only start again after the first quarter of the new year.

If companies want to export to China, they must prepare well by reading the Chinese guidelines and implementing the measures they contain in your company as soon as possible.

  1. The above information is about non-living products. To date we have not received any signals that there are problems with the export of live fish and crustaceans.
  2. China wants to receive so-called COVID-free guarantees. Both the NVWA and the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality indicate that they cannot issue them for various reasons - trade policy (WTO-SPS principles), legal, and more practical - as there are no legal grounds or possibilities for this. The same applies to other EU member states and third countries. The European Commission has sent a letter to the GACC in China stating that EU countries will not and cannot comply with China's requirements. A letter from the partnership between the EU member states, Japan, Canada and Norway is in preparation. So there is pressure from various sides on China.
  3. The Fish Federation is doing everything it can to help the authorities to solve these problems.

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