There is no fish here: what is really happening with seafood in Russia

There is no fish here: what is really happening with seafood in Russia

There is no fish here: what is really happening with seafood in Russia
Analytics

18 July, 14:58
Photo: 1MI
This year Fish Day is celebrating its 90th anniversary. Previously, Soviet people had to be forced to eat fish, crabs and black caviar in order to compensate for the lack of meat. Today everything is different. What is happening with seafood in Russia and is it possible to find good fish somewhere at an adequate price?

For money, only flounder and herring are available to an ordinary Russian, and other seafood and delicacies become an inaccessible dream and a product exclusively for the festive table. Recently, Novye Izvestia figured out that Russia has its own world-class jamon and cheeses, and it is possible that in the future some of them will become available to the masses. Is there a similar chance for seafood in the anniversary year?

And cod is now a delicacy

Last year, Rosstat stopped weekly publications with current prices for consumer goods. Official statistics are hidden. But, according to Agro & Food Communications, from February to June, prices for Atlantic salmon rose from 900-950 rubles per 1 kg to 2,000 rubles, and trout went up from 550 rubles. up to 1700 rub. Even domestic Murmansk salmon increased in price by 2.1 times - up to 1800 rubles. for 1 kg. All due to the fact that the Faroe Islands completely stopped the supply of fish to Russia, and Chile greatly reduced them. These countries accounted for 80% of all salmon consumption in Russia.

Cod, which has never been considered an expensive delicacy, and even that in the Far East, according to the Federal Agency for Fishery, at the end of June cost 225 rubles per 1 kg. Much cheaper than salmon, but taking into account our salaries, it is still prohibitively expensive. Norwegians complain about unaffordable prices - they have 1 kg of cod costs 60 crowns or 345 rubles. For an average salary of 47,000 crowns, an average Norwegian can buy 783.3 kg of cod. In Russia, an average salary of 62,269 rubles can buy 276.75 kg of cod. This is such a “golden” cod.

And red caviar may soon disappear even from the New Year's table. Previously, people could count on informal supplies of caviar from the Far East from private fishermen, but the government is tightening the screws. At the end of last week, a law was signed on an experiment to limit the export of red caviar from Kamchatka. From November 1, 2022, it will be possible to carry no more than 10 kg of “non-industrially produced” salmon caviar (without packaging and labeling) per 1 person in the luggage and hand luggage of the aircraft. According to the Rosselkhoznadzor, more than 500 tons of caviar are exported annually in this way.

Russia is washed by 12 seas belonging to 3 oceans, but there is not even affordable fish, and traditional delicacies like king crab or the symbol of Russia - black caviar are available only to the elites. As it turned out, the reasons for this situation were sometimes created artificially.

Look for everything in China

It is not the first year that the authorities have been engaged in the development of the industry - the second stage of the program is already underway, according to which quotas for industrial fishing are issued in return for obligations to build fish processing plants. This program was supposed to solve the problem of excessive export of fish that went to China from the Far East, where it was frozen and processed, and then returned to Russia in this form with a large markup. But the plan didn't work. At the moment, 14 Far Eastern fish processing enterprises are provided with only 37.5% of their own raw materials, although the investment quota requirements imply that the plant is loaded with investor products by 70%. The fish continues to go to China and South Korea.

Even the closure of Chinese ports under the pretext of covid security (although, most likely, the main reason is the auction for a free quota for catching 100,000 tons of pollock in Russian waters by Chinese companies) did not fundamentally change the situation. Now fish is brought to China by rail. In the first half of 2022 alone, rail exports from Primorsky Krai amounted to 90.2 thousand tons of fish. There is still re-export of seafood to China through South Korea - last year, shipments to Korean ports increased by 72% to 750 thousand tons.

Sending fish to China and Korea is simple and profitable, but to the central regions of Russia it is expensive and difficult. Already at the beginning of 2022, there was a shortage of rolling stock on the railways, which led to a twofold increase in transportation prices. Last year, transportation of 1 kg of fish, according to the Association of Pollack Producers, cost 12-13 rubles, and this year - already 25-27 rubles. These are the prices before the start of the special operation. And the state subsidy for transportation is only 6 rubles. It turns out that only the transport costs of manufacturers increased by 1.6 times. Such an economy is of little interest to anyone.

Long journey for fish

As it turned out , good cheeses can be found in most regions of Russia. Even if there is no desired product on the shelves of stores, it is relatively close to go for it. With fish, this option will not work. There is a strict geographic reference in fisheries. 90% of salmon in Russia is grown in Murmansk, Karelia specializes in trout - breeding cages are set up in local lakes. Sturgeons are bred in the Astrakhan region, and scallops - in the Primorsky Territory. Most fish farms are based on natural reservoirs. Large artificial reservoirs are too complicated and expensive. The cost of keeping fish is already high. According to Andrey Koleda, head of the Karelian Union of Trout Breeders, 90% of feed in the region is imported, mainly from Denmark and Finland, and now we have to look for alternative ways of supply, including through Iran. Naturally, such logistics greatly increases the price of the goods. And domestic food is much inferior in quality and pollutes the environment more.

This geographical division creates additional difficulties for production workers. In Karelia, for example, the regional authorities did not monitor the activities of farmers who polluted water bodies and deprived people of drinking water. The neglected situation has reached the point where local residents are categorically against new breeders and are holding a referendum.

Could eat crabs...

Appetizing, but known to most Russians only by crab sticks, Kamchatka crabs could become a familiar dish for millions of families. Now there is an oversupply of crabs in the world - in the USA since the beginning of the year they have fallen in price by 3 times. Yes, and in Russia there is no shortage of crab - the experiment to populate the Barents Sea with king crab was more than a success. According to Inna Golfand, partner at Strategy Partners, the balance in the ecosystem of the Barents Sea is already coming to an end.

"The king crab population in the Barents Sea is growing rapidly. Experts believe that its reproduction is biological pollution, which can lead to the complete extermination of valuable fish species. The crab really began to eat away the food base of the coastal populations of cod and other bottom fish. At the same time, significant restrictions on its existence will not give the king crab a serious change in the ecosystem of the Barents Sea: it cannot live at depths of more than 200 meters. In general, permission to fish for crab will balance the change in the structure of the biocenosis that has begun.

Despite the rapid growth of the crab population off the coast of the Murmansk region, until recently, the catch of crab by private fishermen was strictly prohibited. It was possible to buy a crab at a reasonable price only from the most daring poachers. Last year, the situation changed and amateur crab fishing was allowed. But it didn’t get any easierЭ, - explains Inna Golfand.

"Until 2021, amateur crab fishing in the Murmansk region was prohibited. In 2021, crab fishing became available to individuals only with permits (licenses) in a special area and the ability to catch only one copy of the king crab per day. However, citizens cannot dispose of the caught crab for commercial purposes".

According to the head of the DiverSea dive center from the Murmansk region Alexey Livans, it is almost impossible for fishermen to fulfill all the requirements.

"Not every person will be able to fulfill the requirements of the Federal Agency for Fisheries. Mining is allowed only with net traps or line, fishing gear must be registered with the branch of the Federal Agency for Fishery. In addition, certain areas have been allocated for the extraction of crab. You can get to them only on swimming facilities registered with the border service. The border service monitors and closely controls crab fishing. I would like to make a distinction between poaching and catching crab for own consumption at the legislative level. It's no secret that many people go to the Kola land and Kamchatka to taste fresh crab right on a boat in the sea. But the border guards are very serious about protecting crabs. Even special positions have been introduced in the border service - “inspector for the protection of aquatic biological resources”. There are more of them every year".

With this approach, the extraction of crabs is possible only by large enterprises that receive quotas and dictate their terms on the market. There is no competition and is not expected, although the spread of crabs can lead to a real environmental disaster.

Black caviar... and China again

Probably everyone remembers the Soviet poster, which became a mocking meme "Force yourself to eat caviar." So in Moscow, pressed black caviar costs from 40 thousand rubles, stellate sturgeon caviar - from 100 thousand rubles, beluga caviar - from 150 thousand rubles.

The domestic fish industry is unable to either saturate the domestic market or send significant volumes for export. Last year, Russian companies produced 60 tons of black caviar, exported 5 tons of them, and imported (mainly from China) 24.1 tons. 30.5% of black caviar in Russia is imported. Moreover, such caviar is often sold in the usual banks, and they may be indicated by a domestic manufacturer who simply packages it.

A unique situation: the prices for the goods are cosmic, but there are no people who want to engage in production. Inna Golfand believes that the time has not yet come for domestic sturgeon farms.

- In 2005, a moratorium was introduced on sturgeon fishing. Therefore, in Russia it is allowed to produce black caviar only in sturgeon aquacultures. Active construction of cages for sturgeon breeding began only in 2015-2016. There are few farms that produce caviar in Russia: it takes years to create a farm, which entails great risks. Therefore, the volumes of the modern black caviar market cannot yet provide the domestic market.

Any entrepreneur who wants to engage in sturgeon breeding and caviar production will first face competition from Chinese producers. And to win this fight, according to Inna Golfand, today is very difficult.

- One of the key problems that Russian sturgeon aquaculture faces is the problem of farm scale. Many large modern RASs have been built in China to sell products at lower prices through economies of scale as well as savings on low-quality feed. Also in Russia there is still a problem of poaching, dependence on foreign equipment, technologies and feed.

One can only hope that sooner or later there will be a sufficient number of risky entrepreneurs with money who will take the risk and invest in large-scale production. But this will take years. For example, the sturgeon farm in Pushkino, Moscow Region, has existed for several years, but plans to start producing caviar only by 2026.

Today, seafood necessary for a healthy diet is stubbornly moving into the category of delicacies that an ordinary citizen can only dream of. And in the foreseeable future, the situation will not change. Catch carp. In the meantime, even the powerful of this world are forced to eat Chinese caviar...

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