Overview of Russia's seafood exports in first half of 2008. Full story.

August 15, 2008 16:19

In the first half of 2008 the exports from the Russian Far East have been dominated by pollock and pollock roes, salmon products, live and frozen crabs, flatfish, etc, according to the overview prepared by analysts of http://www.fishnet-russia.com/ (https://www.fishnet.ru/) based on Japanese and Russian sources.

In June 2008 the Russian Far East fishing fleets concentrated on salmon operations, though the most abundant runs of sockeye, chum and pink salmons to the inshore areas had not been observed yet and salmons were harvested only by those companies having quotas for marine operations and those fishermen who had capture quotas in the eastern coast of Kamchatka.

(Note: for an account of salmon fishery in July and outlook for August please turn to stories Overview of fisheries in the seas of the Russian Far East in July 2008 and Outlook for fisheries (excluding salmon) in the Russian Far East in August 2008 in the August issue of the Russian Fish Report.)

However, already from the very start of July 2008 the growth rates of sockeye runs to the west coast of Kamchatka were increasing and that enabled the local fishermen to start freezing salmon for export markets and domestic market of Russia. By the end of July 2008 the runs of pink salmon grew as active as sockeye runs. Evidently, successful progressing of salmon fishery in the West Kamchatka has given grounds for the federal authorities to assure the fishermen that the total harvest of all the Pacific salmon species during the current season 2008 will not be smaller than 300,000-310,000 metric tons even despite reduced pink salmon quotas.

Sustaining salmon catches at the level as high as the above mentioned can build up a stable basis to boost shipments of salmon products, including roe, both for the domestic market and for export. Moreover, poorer salmon fishery in Alaska as compared to forecasts also weakens competition on the export markets.

Frozen salmon

As per end of June Russia's export of frozen salmon to Japan and China was not very brisk and comparably low in the volume terms. Nevertheless, increased export in the first half of the year can be indicative for a total rise of Russia's frozen salmon export to Japan and China during the salmon season 2008. However, as for salmon roe shipments, a growth of shipments is hardly likely as the current prices for the product on the domestic market are more competitive as compared to prices on the export markets, in Japan for example.

In June 2008, when the fishermen started to export new catches, mostly marine, the Japanese import of Russian frozen sockeye amounted to ca.1200 tonnes, 20% up on 2007. The total import volume through the first half of the year has also displayed a strong growth by 23% to 3700 tonnes. A decrease has been reported only for the average import prices, which were less than 650 Yen per kilo in June 2008 versus nearly 700 Yen per kilo in 2007. The average prices for the first six months of the year amounted to ca.540 Yen per kilo, 4% down on 2007. Though, taking into account stronger exchange rate of the Japanese yen to the US dollar as compared to January-June 2007, the average prices in USD did not decrease and remained the same level.

The Chinese import of Pacific salmon (pinks and chums) in June was not very active and amounted to only ca.400 tonnes versus more than 500 tonnes in 2007, but the total volume of the Chinese import in January-June 2008 exceeded 3000 tonnes, 10% up on 2007, which should have satisfied the Russian producers if the average prices of the Chinese import were not as low as 1.90 USD per kilo, 20% down on 2.40 USD per kilo in the first half of 2007. In June 2008 the prices were much higher at 2.10 USD per kilo, but that was still 0.50 USD down on the respective average price recorded in the same month last year. Thus, by the start of the second half of 2008 the situation with prices for the Russian salmon exported to China was not very favourable for the development of the trade relations between the two nations.

Alaska pollock roes

Along with salmon, June 2008 was remarkable for suspension of active shipments of frozen Alaska pollock roe to the product's major markets of Japan, South Korea and China. The official figures for Russia's export to these three countries in June 2008 are indicative of a general trend of growing direct shipments to Japan and considerably decreasing exports to the South Korea and China. The rise of Russia's shipments of raw fish to Japan in June were much higher than in 2007 and import volume amounted to 5600 tonnes, only 16% down on May 2008 and 240% up on 2007. As a result, in the first half of 2008 the Japanese import of frozen Alaska pollock roe reached 15,500 tonnes versus less than 10,000 tonnes in 2007, thus rising by 55% with the production output growing only by 15-20% (under various estimates). Already by the end of the first half of 2008 the volume of customs cleared shipments of Russian raw APO roe to Japan exceeded the total result for the 12 months of the year 2007 by 3300 tonnes with the growth rate recorded at 27% (that was a very strong increase taking into account a considerable rise of purchasing prices). Therefore by the end of the current year 2008 the total volume of the Japanese import of Russian APO roe can reach 18,000 metric tons, approximately corresponding the production volume in winter-spring "A" season in Alaska.

The average price of the Russian pollock roe imported to Japan amounted to ca.1250 Yen per kilo, ca.110 Yen down on May 2008 due to a decrease of auction prices in Busan in May 2008 as compared to the auction prices in the second half of April. However, as compared to last year the prices were approximately 150 Yen per kilo higher and the average prices through the first half of the year were very close to the level of 1300 Yen per kilo (or ca.12 USD per kilo CIF), while in 2007 they were down 1100 Yen per kilo or ca.9.50 USD per kilo due to the weak exchange rate of Yen last year. Thus, the rise of the average import prices amounted to 18.5%. As for other markets, the volumes of Russian shipments of APO roe were decreasing with the prices reported as much smaller. Therefore, the Japanese importers have made strong efforts to provide their customers with much larger stock of the Russian raw material for current and future operations.

The South Korean import of frozen APO roe of the Russian origin in May was limited to less than 400 tonnes, more than twice down on last year, with the average CIF prices reported at ca.8.80 USD per kilo. The total volume of imports through the first half of the year reached only 2000 tonnes versus nearly 3000 tonnes in 2007. In order to secure purchases the South Korean importers also had to agree to higher prices, but they could not afford a dramatic rise of prices due to their market conditions and had to reduce purchases. In the meantime, the average import prices grew less than 10% to ca.8.20 USD per kilo.

Shipments of the Russian APO roe to China suffered from rising direct shipments to Japan at the largest extent and in June 2008 China imported only 200 tonnes of APO roe from Russia versus 2600 tonnes in 2007. Upside-down change of the Japanese attitude to the use of the APO roe semi-processed by China for production of spiced APO roe and other types of ready-to-eat products for the Japanese market could be proved by a dramatic fall of the Chinese exports to Japan to only 1000 tonnes in the first half of 2008, which was 5 times down on the corresponding result of 2007. However, it was still a long way to complete closure of shipments and by the end of the season the situation with supplies of Russian APO roe to China was expected to change. At the same time, by the start of the second half of 2008 the market players understood that the Japanese side had built up the largest possible stock of the Russian APO roe for the future and considerably reduced purchases from the Chinese processors.

The average prices of the Chinese import of the Russian raw material in June were fairly high at ca.10.50 USD per kilo, nearly 2.00 USD up on 2007. However, during the first half of the year the prices did not exceed 8.30 USD per kilo and remained practically on a par with last year. That was attributed to the fact that in 2008 Russia exported to China mostly lower quality raw as compared to 2007, while the Japanese market players reported about a large improvement of the average level of quality of the Russian products in 2008.

Alaska pollock

At the same time, Alaska pollock itself remained a major priority for the Chinese producers of fillets and other products for further export to the markets of the USA, Western Europe and Japan. In the first half of 2008 the situation with the produce grew somewhat better as compared to six months of 2007, as the import volume of the Russian Alaska pollock increased by 2% to nearly 182,000 metric tons. However, in June 2008 the situation with shipments was fairly difficult with the country importing only a little more than 11,000 tonnes versus nearly 13,000 tonnes in 2007. Serious changes in prices were not observed. In June 2008 the average import prices somewhat increased on 2007 to 2.70 USD per kilo, presumably thanks to a comparably large share of cod in imports of Russian products. However, the average prices through the first half of the year were limited to only 1.70 USD versus 1.77 USD per kilo in January-June 2007. The market analysts expected than in July and August of 2008 shipments of the Russian raw could be less active than in 2007 due to difficult fishery conditions in the West Bering Sea.

Other bottomfish

In general, import of bottomfish species of the Russian origin in June 2008 developed not worse than in 2007. Shipments of halibuts, both white and black, practically halved on 2007 and their total volume did not reach even 200 tonnes versus more than 400 tonnes in 2007, while shipments of flounder amounted to 2700 tonnes, approximately 200 tonnes up on last year. In the meantime, the situation through the first half of the year was quite the opposite and while import of halibuts grew more than by 30% to 1200 tonnes, but import of frozen flounder of the Russian origin amounted to only 6300 tonnes, nearly 60% down on 2007.

As for the prices, the average indications for black halibut in January-June 2008 dropped by 80% to 3 USD per kilo, while the average prices of flounder imported from Russia remained below 1.30 USD per kilo despite a dramatic fall of shipments.

The Japanese import of frozen halibut of the Russian origin in June rose nearly by 75% to ca.450 tonnes, however the growth of shipments through the first half of 2008 amounted to ca.10% to 2300 tonnes. The average prices grew by 3% to 640 Yen per kilo.


Shipments of frozen squid of the Russian origin to China continued developing in June, but their volumes were limited to one container and the product import through the first half of the year amounted to only ca.900 tonnes, a very modest result as compared to more than 180,000 tonnes of squid imported to China from all the sources. However, the dynamics could be still described as positive as in January-June 2007 the Chinese import of the Russian squid amounted to less than 200 tonnes.

Frozen crab

The Chinese import of frozen crab of the Russian origin in June amounted to only 700 tonnes versus nearly 1400 tonnes in 2007. The average import prices were lower than ca.2.70 USD per kilo and the total volume of the product's shipments through the first half of the year 2008 amounted to only 3100 tonnes, practically 4000 tonnes down on 2007 and lower than the corresponding result of 2006 (4300 tonnes).

Shipments of Russian frozen crabs to Japan were much more active with the volumes reported at nearly 3700 tonnes in June 2008, more than 10% up on 2007. However, the total volume of the Japanese import of frozen crab from Russia in January-June 2008 amounted to 9600 tonnes, including more than 3800 tonnes of king crabs and ca.5800 tonnes of snow crab, more than 15% down on 2007. At the same time, the average prices of the Japanese import of frozen snow crab of the Russian origin grew by 4% to ca.1115 Yen per kilo, while the average prices of the Japanese import of frozen king crab jumped more than by 50% to ca.1765 Yen per kilo.

Live crab

Import of Russian live crab to Japan in June 2008 was also developing more actively than in 2007 and the total shipments cleared at customs increased by 30% to ca.5600 tonnes. The total volume of live crab imported to Japan from Russia amounted to ca.14,700 tonnes versus 13,500 tonnes in the first six months of 2007. At the same time, the average prices of imported live crab displayed negative trends. More specifically, the average prices dropped by less than 5% to 410 Yen per kilo of imported snow crab, by 7% to 660 Yen per kilo of red king crab, and nearly by 15% to 630 Yen per kilo of hairy crab.

Live sea urchins

The Japanese import of live sea urchins of the Russian origin in June went down by 14% to 1200 tonnes, according to the official information. The total volume of shipments through the first half of 2008 was limited to only 6500 tonnes, approximately 20% down on the corresponding result of 2007. The average import prices in January-June 2008 grew nearly by 100 Yen to 580 Yen per kilo.

Atka mackerel

The Japanese import of the Russian Atka mackerel in the first half of 2008 increased more than 15% to 14,000 tonnes.

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