Overview of seafood exports from Russian Far East in April-May 2008

June 11, 2008 16:30

In the second half of April and in May 2008 the Russian fishermen operating in the seas of the nation's Far East reported a general decrease of fishing activity. That resulted first of all from the closure of the APO fishery in the north part of the Sea of Okhotsk which contributed a lion's share of the total harvest in the first quarter of the year, according to the overview prepared by analysts of http://www.fishnet-russia.com/ (https://www.fishnet.ru/) based on Japanese and Russian sources.

After the closure of the main fishery the Alaska pollock operations continued only in the area of East Sakhalin, but due to comparably small quotas in the area the fishery was limited and did not exert great influence on the total result of the fishery activity.

Frozen APO roe

In the meantime, frozen APO roe produced onboard Russian vessels in the above area went for auction in Busan (South Korea) in the second half of May, but the Japanese experts said that the quality of these products was much lower versus the APO roe processed in the main fishing areas off West Kamchatka and in the north of the Sea of Okhotsk. As the stock put up for auction also included overmature roe and north Okhotsk pollock roe with later production dates (first ten days of April), the general worsening of the APO roe quality was regarded by the Japanese buyers as an undisputable fact. Under those conditions they reduced their bid prices, while the Russian producers did their best to prevent prices from falling. Due to the discrepancy between the two sides, a lot of May auctions were finished with no result.

The first May sales of Russian APO roe at auctions in Busan were carried out on 14 and 15 May 2008. The summarized offer at those auctions amounted to approximately 2500-2700 tonnes and the prices of more or less good quality products were reported at 12-13 USD per kilo. As compared to the late April auctions, there was no considerable decrease of prices though the average product quality went much down. In general, the buyers' activity at the first auctions in May current was less high than it was expected by the producers and the sellers, which led to large inventories remaining unsold due to low bid prices of the buyers unbearable for the sellers. Some reports said that a proportion of those products were offered by the Chinese giant Pacific Andes, the leading seller of the Russian products according to the Japanese experts. There were also reports saying that after the auctions the sides made attempts to conduct bilateral talks.

The further auctions of frozen APO roe of the Russian origin highlighted a growing gap in the bid prices of the Japanese and the offer prices of the Russians. The buyers made a greater focus on the product quality, while the producers still tried to retain the offer prices at the level formed already in late April prior to the beginning of the May holidays in Japan. A large difference between the price expectations of the buyers and the sellers caused an increase of the number of those auctions which closed without result due to the sellers' resistance to the bid prices. The summarized volume of the product offer in the course of the May auctions amounted to approximately 7000 tonnes, including those products which had been earlier offered to the buyers, but remained unsold due to excessively high offer prices from the bidders' point of view. The season of the auction sales dragged on up to the beginning of June, though after the April auctions there were expectations that the sales season would have been closed after two series of May auctions. The producers rejected the bids for more or less good quality products lower than at 12 USD per kilo, while many buyers would not raise their bids higher than 10 USD per kilo as they had already purchased a fairly large stock in the course of the previous auctions.

At the recent May auctions the product range on offer was characterized by a greater than usual nonuniformity as the sellers offered also the APO roe, which had been put up for sale at the previous auctions in May and even in April and remained unsold, which was produced at sea in the waters of East Sakhalin from mid-April to early May, and at last the roe which had been made onboard the vessels arrested for controversial violations on the grounds off West Kamchatka and in the north part of the Sea of Okhotsk and escorted to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky for investigation. According to non-official information, prices of products made onboard the ceased vessels were formed mostly at 12.50-13.00 USD per kilo ex-coldstore Busan (for the spot lots), ca.1.00 USD per kilo down on the quotations at the auctions in late April. The prices of the APO roe frozen onboard in the north of the Sea of Okhotsk with the production date in April were mostly reported at 11 USD per kilo, though there were also offers at prices lower than the above mentioned. The APO roe produced in the East Sakhalin fetched 10.00-11.50 USD per kilo.

In April, when the main phase of the sales season took off, the total volume of frozen APO roe made by Russian fishermen and exported to Japan, South Korea and China amounted to 3100 tonnes growing nearly by 30% as compared to 2007. While Russia's export to Japan jumped by 90% to 2400 tonnes, the nation's sales to China were reduced nearly by 55% to 200 tonnes and Russia's export to South Korea went down nearly by 25% to 500 tonnes. The average prices of the Japanese import of the Russian APO roe increased nearly by 15% and approached the level of 1300 Yen per kilo, the average prices of the Chinese imports jumped by more than 215% to 7 USD per kilo and the average prices of Russia's roe exports to South Korea increased nearly by 20% to 8.35 USD per kilo. The growth of the import prices was indicative of rising prices at the auctions and more active sales to Japan were probably caused by the plans of the Japanese processors to build up as large inventories as possible due to a dramatic fall of APO roe shipments from Alaska.

Frozen Alaska pollock

As for Russia's export of frozen Alaska pollock, the reports said that the nation's shipments to China got brisker. More specifically, the volume of the Chinese import in April amounted to ca.47,500 tonnes growing by more than 15% on last year, while through the first quarter of the year the country imported less than 100,000 tonnes of Russian pollock and in March 2008 the volume of Russia's exports to China amounted to less than 35,500 tonnes, nearly 40% down on the corresponding figure of 2007. Actually, the rise of the Russian harvest and gradual settling of problems with export of fillets and other products from China created conditions for recovery of sales of the Russian raw fish for processing in China. The average prices of the Chinese imports of the Russian frozen pollock were close to 1.60 USD per kilo, approximately 5% down on last year.

Halibut

In April 2008 Russia's shipments of black and white halibuts to China were also actively developing. The total import volume through the month exceeded 500 tonnes, five times up on the corresponding result of 2007 and larger than in the first quarter of 2008. The average prices of the Chinese imports of the Russian halibut were reported at 3 USD per kilo and there was a decrease of prices of white halibut going down by 1 USD per kilo.

Frozen and live crab

On the above background the situation with shipments of Russian crab into China stood out of the general picture. In April 2008 the volume of Russia's crab export decreased as low as to 150 tonnes, more than 80% down on April 2007, while the total export volume since the start of the year amounted to 1800 tonnes only, versus 5200 tonnes last year (that means that the Russian shipments went down by 65%).

The Japanese import of frozen crab from Russia in April 2008 also decreased, but that was true only for red and blue king crabs the shipments of which came down nearly by 40% to 400 tonnes, while the sales of snow crab opilio remained on a par with the previous year 2007 and amounted namely to ca.750 tonnes (in the closing ten days of May the traders launched seasonal sales of snow crab opilio harvested in the north of the Sea of Okhotsk at prices of 1200 Yen per kilo of cooked and frozen product and 1300-1350 Yen per kilo of raw frozen crab). The situation with shipments of live crabs of the Russian origin to Japan in April 2008 dramatically changed and shipments of both red kings and snow crab opilio drastically increased. Import of live red and blue king crab jumped nearly four times on March 2008 and exceeded 200 tonnes versus only 80 tonnes in 2007. In the meantime, import of live crab increased more than five times and reached 2500 tonnes versus 1700 tonnes in 2007. The specialists linked such developments with the recent changes in the attitude of the Russian authorities to control of the crab fishery.

Roe herring

In the second half of May 2008 the Russian fish businesses took part in the roe herring fishery in the north part of the Sea of Okhotsk, but the situation on the grounds was weak. The Japanese buyers retaining interest in purchases of the Okhotsk roe herring doubted that the total harvest through the season would considerably exceed 10,000 tonnes (for comparison in 2007 the fleet harvested 14,000 tonnes of herring). As a result, the Japanese purchases could go down, moreover there were problems with the product quality.

Salmon

In late May and early June 2008 the Russian fishermen were finishing preparations for the new season of the inshore salmon fishery and already started to export salmon from sea fishery to Japan. The volume of the first shipments of sea-harvested frozen salmon was forecasted to be limited to 200 tonnes, of which up to 150 tonnes would be contributed by sockeye. However, progressing of sales was hampered by the fact that the producers resisted to sell products at prices lower than 800 Yen per kilo, but the bidders were not ready to purchase at prices higher than 700 Yen per kilo. As for the outlook for Russia's export of pink salmon and chum salmon harvested with fixed seines in 2008 to China, a great interest was caused by China's booming imports in April 2008. More specifically, the import volume amounted to nearly 1400 tonnes, while in the previous three months the country purchased less than 200 tonnes and as compared to last year the April import jumped nearly 3.5-fold. The activity of the April import meant that the Chinese processors had good capacities for production of fillets and other export products from the Russian raw.

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