Overview of seafood exports from the Russian Far East in January 2009

March 16, 2009 12:52

January is an off-season for main Russian fisheries or an early period of the new season, when the fisheries develop far from at full swing, therefore Russian shipments to the most important Far Eastern markets are normally limited. In January 2009 the trend has also been observed without any large changes, though some products have been showing definitely increasing import activity, which is especially interesting against the background of mandatory customs clearance of EEZ's catch in Russian ports as opposed to the previous practice of direct shipments from high seas to export destinations. The situation with prices for the Russian exports to Japan has been under a great influence of a large rise of Yen exchange rate to USD as compared to the first half of the previous year 2008, according to the overview prepared by analysts of http://www.fishnet-russia.com/ (https://www.fishnet.ru/) based on Japanese and Russian sources.

Salmon

The Japanese import of frozen sockeye of the Russian origin in January 2009 developed more actively than in December 2008. More specifically, the import volume jumped by 300 tonnes or 37% to ca.1100 tonnes, still 12% down on the corresponding result of January 2008. The average import price was limited to only 400 Yen per kilo versus approximately 480 Yen per kilo in December 2009 and January 2008. Import of Russian coho salmon in January 2009 was not recorded at all, just like shipments of chum salmon and other species of frozen Pacific salmon of the Russian origin to Japan.

In January 2009 the Chinese import of frozen Russian salmon was unprecedentedly high for the off-season. Market players think that is indicative of recovering demand for the Russian raw fish from the Chinese producers of fillets and other processed products meant for developed markets of the USA and Europe encouraged by fairly low prices (which is one of the most important stimuli during the financial crisis).

The import volume in January 2009 amounted to ca.2800 tonnes, evidently mostly pink salmon, chum salmon and coho salmon as sockeye shipments were not cleared at customs. That was nearly 15 times up on the result of January 2008 when the Russian vessels shipped less than 200 tonnes, and nearly 4 times up on 700 tonnes in January 2007. The average import price amounted to 1.45 USD per kilo, which was much below the results of the previous two years (namely ca.1.60 USD and 2.10 USD per kilo). In terms of prices in January 2009 the bulk of the Russian shipments was contributed by pink salmon despite a considerable decrease of catches, and probably at comparably low prices the Russian fleets shipped chum salmon harvested with fixed seines.

Roe

In January 2009 the Japanese import of frozen pollock roe of the Russian origin (according to the Japanese customs statistics, the shipments could also contain roe of cod and other congener species, but usually the Russian vessels either do not ship those types of roe or ship them in very small volumes) was unusually active for the off-season. According to the market players, the season of active shipments of pollock roe from the A season in the Sea of Okhotsk did not begin yet, therefore the Japanese import in January 2009 was represented partly by the products offered at the January auction and made in the end of last year in the Kurile grounds, and partly by the products remaining in coldstores in Busan and China or in the hands of the foreign processors and even Russian producers as this part of the stock was neither used nor sold due to some reasons.

The volume of shipments in January 2009 amounted to ca.750 tonnes, 350% up on December 2008 and 265% up on January 2008. At the same time, the average import price decreased by 13% as compared to December 2008, but as compared to January 2008 it increased by nearly 100 Yen per kilo or 11.5% and amounted to ca.970 Yen per kilo CIF. Taking into account much stronger exchange rate of Yen to USD the purchasing price in USD grew obviously by ca.40% and approached 11.00 USD per kilo. On the threshold of the new sales season high average prices of the Japanese import in December 2008 and January 2009 let the Russian producers be confident in successful price results of the future auctions in the season 2009.

Shipments of Russian herring roe to Japan in January 2009 were recorded neither in frozen form nor salted nor any other form. The Japanese importers did not purchase frozen salmon roe of the Russian origin, but shipments of frozen salmon roe were much more active than in January 2008. Their volume amounted to nearly 160 metric tons versus only 5 tonnes in January 2008. The average import price remained at the level of 2000 Yen per kilo with the Yen exchange rate in January 2009 being very high thus making the above price equal to ca.22.50 USD per kilo. The general activity of shipments in December 2008 and January 2009 was very high. The total import volume amounted to 370 tonnes, thus showing the readiness of the Japanese users to focus on the Russian raw fish due to very strong prices for products from the national fisheries.

Import of frozen pollock roe to the South Korea in January 2009 amounted to only 90 tonnes, more than 60% down on December 2008, and two times down on January 2008. As per the end of January 2009, the total volume of seasonal shipments of the Russian pollock roe for the period from April 2008 was limited to only 2500 tonnes, more than 30% down on the result for the same period of the previous season and 40% down on shipments of products from the season of 2007 (from April 2007 to March 2008 inclusive). The production growth in the Russian zone in the current year 2009 created good opportunities for the South Korean buyers to participate in purchases of the Russian raw fish, but weakness of won in combination with difficult economic conditions complicated their position greatly. The average import price in January 2009 was close to 9.00 USD per kilo, down on ca.10.80 USD per kilo in December 2008, but 1.70 USD up on the result of January 2008. If prices for the Russian pollock roe from the season of 2009 keep growing, active participation of the South Korean buyers in Busan auctions will turn out to be a big question.

The Chinese import of Russian fish roe cleared at the customs under the HSC group uniting roe, stomach, milts and other insides amounted to only 50 tonnes, 70% down on the corresponding result of last year and nearly 90% down on January 2007 when the imported volume amounted to ca.500 tonnes. However, the average import price amounted to only 0.65 USD per kilo, thus giving grounds for very serious doubts that in January 2009 the traders imported fish roe. In the previous years such doubts were not given rise to because the prices were much stronger and approximated the frozen roe prices. Namely, in January 2008 the average import price amounted to 11.55 USD per kilo and in January 2007 it made 8.45 USD per kilo.

Crabs

In January 2009 the dynamics of Russian shipments of live crab to Japan considerably slowed down on December 2008, while shipments of red and blue king crab were more active. As compared to January 2008 the import volume considerably increased, also thanks to large shipments of red and blue king crabs, the development falling out of the above trend which formed in 2008 in a situation of stricter control on crab grounds.

The total volume of shipments of all the crab species amounted to ca.1800 tonnes, one third down on December 2008 and 17% up on January 2008. At the same time, shipments of live snow crab more than halved on December 2008 and did not reach even the level of 1000 tonnes versus 1150 tonnes in January 2008. At the same time shipments of red king crab, at least according to the official import statistics, grew nearly by 85% on December 2008 to ca.800 tonnes, four times up on the official result for January 2008.

The average import price of live red king crab and blue king crab amounted to 820 Yen per kilo in January 2009, ca.5-6% down on December 2008 (probably due to the dynamics of the Yen exchange rate), but as compared to January 2008 it jumped by more than 70%, while for shipments of live snow crab it was limited to less than 400 Yen per kilo, only 13% up on January 2008 (though in USD equivalent the price rise was larger taking into account the difference between the exchange rates).

Unlike the situation with live crab shipments, Russian fleets decreased exports of frozen crab in January 2009. The total volume of imported Russian crab amounted to less than 1200 tonnes, practically twice down on the import volume in December 2008 and 12% down on the import volume in January 2008. Import of frozen red king crab decreased by 23% on December 2008 by 23% to less than 900 tonnes, with the average import price coming down on the last year results by more than 10% to less than 1400 Yen per kilo. The volume of frozen snow crab import went down practically four times on December 2008 to only 300 tonnes, or nearly to the level of January 2008. However, that time the average import price rose by 12-16% to 1200 Yen per kilo.

Import of canned crab of the Russian origin was not recorded in January 2009, while import of crab meat was limited to only 2 tonnes with the average prices reported at ca.2015 Yen per kilo.

The dynamics of shipments of the Russian frozen products to China kept slowing down and in January 2009 the volume of shipments did not reach 300 tonnes, decreasing by 35% on December 2008 and by 65% or more than 550 tonnes on January 2008. Through the recent months a decrease was observed only in March and April 2008 when the traders imported correspondingly ca.250 tonnes and 150 tonnes. If the trend persists in the future, the Russian shipments of frozen crabs for processing to China will inevitably decrease to 3000 tonnes (such low level was observed some five years ago) and this will even aggravate the dependence of the Chinese processors on shipments from the North America.

The average import price of the Russian products settled at 1.80 USD per kilo even despite such a considerable fall of shipments. The figure was actually much below the January results for Japan (ca.4.35 USD per kilo) and the USA (2.20 USD per kilo), as well as below the average prices for shipments from Russia in 2008 (ca.2.80 USD per kilo).

Pollock and cod species

In January 2009 the activity of shipments of frozen Russian pollock to Japan remained at the level of January 2008 with the import volume again exceeding 200 tonnes, 60% up on December 2008. The average import price amounted to ca.160 Yen per kilo, somewhat lower than in 2008 but nearly on a par with the average prices of the US imports.

However, the Japanese import of frozen pollock, cod and congener species originating from Russia remained very slow in January 2008. In a situation of increased pollock quotas for fishery in the Sea of Okhotsk and favourable fishery conditions there were grounds to forecast a boost of import, but the market players say that slow sales could be explained by two factors such as the New Year holidays in the end of January (under the lunar calendar) and introduction of new export rules with mandatory clearance of EEZ's catch in the Russian ports. Another important factor behind the sales' deceleration was a stronger interest of the Russian fishermen and processors in fillet production for domestic and export markets. Under those conditions the Chinese processors had to intensify search for alternative sources of whitefish, but those efforts had not yet brought any special results and, moreover, any success in that search caused certain doubts, market players say.

The volume of the January import of the Russian raw amounted to only 5000 tonnes, more than 6 times down on January 2008. The average import price jumped by 15%, but it was limited to 1.90 USD per kilo, therefore the bulk of the shipments must be represented by pollock, and not by cod (even trawl cod) or longfin codling Laemonema.

Flounder and halibuts

The Japanese import of frozen flounder of the Russian origin in January 2009 slightly increased on December 2008, but declined on January 2008 more than twice to 100 tonnes (the average import price again did not reach 300 Yen per kilo, 4% down on January 2008). Import of frozen Russian halibut to Japan amounted to only about 300 tonnes in January 2009, ca.40% down on January 2008, while the average import price decreased by 6.5% on December 2008 to 600 Yen per kilo, approximately on a par with the result of January 2008.

The total volume of the Chinese import of frozen Russian halibut in January 2009 remained at the level of the same month last year, namely at 160 tonnes. However, the shares of white and black halibut in the total import volume changed. More specifically, import of white halibut rose by 60% to 120 tonnes, while import of black halibut went down by 55% to only 40 tonnes. As a noticeable development, there was a dramatic decrease of prices and their extremely low level with the average import price of white halibut amounting to ca.1.15 USD per kilo, more than 70% down on January 2008. The average import price of black halibut was limited to only 1.30 USD per kilo, practically 50% down on January 2008.

The volume of import of frozen Russian flounder to China in January 2009 amounted to a little more than 70 tonnes versus nearly 900 tonnes in January 2008. But even with such a huge fall of the import volume the average price for the Russian shipments appeared to be extremely low at only 1.25 USD per kilo versus nearly 1.50 USD per kilo in January 2008.

Other species

In January 2009 the Chinese customs cleared 60 tonnes of frozen squid originating from Russia, while in January 2008 no such shipments were cleared at all. The average import price amounted to ca.0.70 USD per kilo CIF, approximately 45% down on the average price of the Chinese import of squid from all the sources. Thus, the Russian products have so far remained in the same price niche which they took in the previous year. Out of all the main sources the price index for the Russian shipments remains the lowest.

Import of frozen ocean perch Sebastes mentella of the Russian origin amounted to 330 tonnes in January 2009, nearly 30% up on December 2008, but 45% down on January 2008. The average import price amounted to ca.365 Yen per kilo, or nearly on a par with the result of January 2008. Shipments of Atka mackerel were limited to less than 1500 tonnes, practically 1000 tonnes down on last year. The average price of the Japanese import decreased below 180 Yen per kilo, or nearly to the level of January 2008, but it was still 20% down on the average price in December 2008.

In the meantime, shipments of frozen Russian herring to Japan developed much more actively than in December 2008. The import volume amounted to ca.1750 tonnes, four times up on the import volume in December 2008, but still 27% down on January 2008. The average import price again decreased below 100 Yen per kilo, namely to 90 Yen per kilo, while in January 2008 it was ca.125 Yen per kilo (the decrease could be evidently explained by a dramatic strengthening of the Yen rate to USD especially as compared to the first quarter of 2008). Import of herring fillets of the Russian origin stayed at 800 tonnes, twice up on January 2008. The average import price decreased by 5% to less than 400 Yen per kilo.

The shipments of live sea urchins grew much slower as compared to December 2008, while the import volume decreased by 65% to 600 tonnes, but as compared to January 2008 the volume grew by 5%. The average import price rose to 740 Yen per kilo versus 550 Yen per kilo in December 2008 and 580 Yen per kilo in January 2008.

Import of frozen pollock-based surimi of the Russian origin to Japan in January 2009 was limited to 24 tonnes, just like in December 2008. The average import price declined by 6% to below 405 Yen per kilo. The market players explained the above situation by the fact that the importers continued clearing shipments from the end of the last year and the price decrease could result from the dynamics of the Yen exchange rate.

Import of Russian products of this category to the South Korea was not reported by the customs in January 2009.

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