Russian surimi producers gearing up to fill emerging supply gap on domestic crab sticks market

April 23, 2009 16:25

In the current year the Russian consumer may face a power supply of such popular product as crab stocks, the shortage to be caused by the world financial crisis as China, the largest producer of raw material for crab sticks, has halved its shipments to Russia. In this situation Russian firms are increasingly investing into own surimi production, reports ( with reference to Russia's Pollock Association.

Surimi-based crab sticks are an affordable and healthy product. Appearing on the market some 30 years ago, it has become one of usual components of home meals, mostly salads. Due to rising prices and decreased profits in 2009 meat products may grow unaffordable for rising number of consumers and meat could be substituted by less expensive finfish, shellfish and other aquatic products, including crab sticks.

The world's largest producer of surimi China is also the main suppliers of crab sticks to Russia. Shipments of Chinese producers of surimi and fish mince went down by 25% in March 2009 as compared to the same period last year. A dramatic decrease of the sales volume has come as a result of declining external demand. In February 2009 a number of countries which were registered in China's official statistics as surimi buyers, decreased to 27 only, while in January they were 45 in number. The volume of shipments to Japan went down by 40% on last year, while the average export price grew to 2.60 USD per kilo. Shipments to the USA nearly halved, while the average export price increased by 25% nearly to 1.85 USD per kilo. Export to Europe also halved, and the price fluctuated at 1.7-2.00 USD per kilo. Shipments to Russia went twice down to 1200 tonnes per month.

Russian surimi

The situation is aggravated by the fact that China is practically the only large producer of surimi in the world. The Russian companies have only started developing such complicated and costly production. In particular, members of Russia's Pollock Association are planning to boost own output of surimi products. However, the level of own annual production is not going to exceed 1500-2000 tonnes in the coming couple of years. At present, two member companies have been installing surimi production plants in Kamchatka and in the Kurile Islands, said the Association's President German Zverev. Surimi production implies high technologies and therefore requires strong investments into equipment and foreign expertise, that is why very few businesses dare launch such projects especially against the background of slack sales of surimi.

Nevertheless, decrease of import shipments of surimi creates a favourable background for development of own production aimed at substituting imported products by domestic range. The Russian fish businesses have the necessary raw fish resources, but they need huge investments and in this connection the government is expected to give its support in the form of subsidies of interest rates and soft taxation for those companies which develop the domestic processing.

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