Russian salmon season overshadowed by uncertainties with export to China

June 1, 2021 09:26

As per start of June the process of resuming the export of Russian seafood to China by reefer vessels remained stalled casting shadows on the prospects for bulk shipments from the unrolling wild salmon season to the Chinese market later this year, reports

According to Rybak Kamchatki, since the end of 2020, China ports have been restricting the unloading of fish products from Russia (except for container loads), explaining this with quarantine measures. Now, similar problems may await salmon producers.

According to the Chinese authorities, traces of COVID-19 have been regularly found on Russian packaging. The "infected" samples are immediately destroyed, so the Russian side cannot conduct an independent test to verify the findings.

First of all, Russian pollock fishermen, who export a large proportion of their catch to China, have been affected. This was one of the reasons for the reduced catch in the “A” pollock season in the Sea of Okhotsk. In January – early April, 777 thousand tons of pollock were harvested here, which is 15% less than last year's result. Also, the output of the main types of products decreased. Frozen HG declined by 24%, WR came down by 15%. According to the Pollock Catchers Association, the additional logistic costs caused by the actions of the Chinese authorities will eat up to 10% of the total revenue of the Okhotsk Season, and the revenue itself will decrease by about 20% compared to last year.

Pacific salmon

"China is also among the importers of Russian salmon products. It not only consumes, but also provides storage. Since 2009, when the salmon industry began to show record catches, the need for new refrigeration facilities for storing fish in the Russian Far East has been repeatedly highlighted. While we were discussing it, our neighbors were building. Therefore, a number of salmon producers export their goods to China for storage, and then re-export them to Russia. And here there may be obstacles, because when exporting salmon, the same vessels and containers are used as for pollock, " said Vladimir Galitsyn, chairman of the Salmon Catchers Association of Kamchatka.

Hopes that China will lift the restrictions in the near future were recently dispelled by the trade representative of the Russian Federation in China Alexey Dakhnovsky. "So far (as per end of May), the process of agreeing on measures for the possibility of resuming the export of Russian seafood is stalled," the trade representative said.

Sergey Dankvert, the head of the Russian vet watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor, believes that it is not just the pandemic.

"The documents of our Chinese colleagues no longer just regulate the situation with the coronavirus. I think this is already an element of a long-term program that will give them the opportunity to regulate import of any product, " he said. The topic of coronavirus is not regulated anywhere. Today, fishermen need to pass tests for COVID-19, and tomorrow all importers will be obliged, for example, to cover their products with a special bactericidal film, which is produced only in China. Then the original film would need to be torn off and the Chinese one would have to be applied. As a result of all these actions, the products would become uncompetitive."

In 2021, 459 thousand tons of Pacific salmon are expected to be caught in the Russian Far East, of which 359 thousand tons are expected to be harvested in the Kamchatka Territory. The current season will be among the top three for the period since 2008, if the forecast comes true and nothing will prevent fishermen from taking the allowed volume.

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