Surging imports slowing down fast growth of major Russian processor

November 13, 2006 11:10

In 2005 Homyakovsky Hladokombinat Fish Plant based in Tula near Moscow and exporting under GULFISH label doubled its sales up to 1.13 billion RUR (ca. $40 million) but the outlook for 2006 is for no or little further growth because of competition from imported seafood, the firm’s CEO Sergey Malkin told EXPERT magazine.

It is difficult to compete with cheap Chinese seafood even for this super-modern plant, he complained.

Here all the incoming material is checked for freshness, microbiology and pests. An independent lab will also do analysis for toxins and radiology. Besides, the air of cold storage chambers for raw material and finished production is rigorously monitored as well.

As the report puts it, the production rooms are cool and clean. The automatic machines cut off fish heads, remove the backbone with the operations followed by removal of scales, preliminary cutting and filleting.

Each processing worker has an electronic key and his or her performance can be monitored in real time.  

Further on, on the lighted tables the workers inspect the fillets and manually remove pin-bones, remaining scales and fins.

Additional quality control is carried out by special instrumentation displaying the data on the filleter behind the product and if any pin-bones have been overlooked.

The final stage of the process includes freezing or chilling and packing.

The annual capacity of the plant amounts to 8,000 tonnes of fillets, steaks, portions, head-off tail-off cuts, mince and breaded products from plaice, cod, Alaska pollock, saffron cod, pink salmon, halibut, pike perch, redfish, sea cat, trout, Atlantic salmon, chum salmon, etc.

However, Russia needs at least a hundred of such advanced plants while currently they are few. Some of them include TURNIF Rybokombinat, NBAMR and PBTF in Primorye (Capital Vladivostok), NORD-WEST in Murmansk, RYBHOLKAM in Kamchatka and INTERRYBPRODUCT near Moscow.

By contrast, in China such factories line the entire coast, Malkin pointed out.

He believes that subject to a degree of protection by the government, it would take two or three years to establish the necessary scale of value-added processing industry in Russia. 

To prove his point the CEO referred to the case of Bush legs (chicken legs) nearly destroying the domestic chicken breeding five years ago, but as soon as the government intervened, the Russian chicken industry quickly recovered.

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