What next for the Russian pig meat industry?
In 2017, the most recent figures from the USDA attaché estimate Russian pig meat production reached 2.96 million tonnes. This is over 3% more than in 2016, but slightly lower than previously anticipated. In 2018, growth is expected to be slower again, reaching 3 million tonnes. However, Russia has currently implemented a “temporary” ban on pig meat imports from Brazil, which supplies 90% of its imported pork. If this ban were to remain in place, could domestic pork producers scale up to compensate?
African Swine Fever (ASF) continued to spread throughout Russia in 2017 and will likely continue to do so in 2018. This, along with market saturation, may be constraining production growth. Significantly, the disease was detected in Belgorod in September, the region most significant for pork production. The continuing prevalence of this disease in Russia is likely to dampen expansion ability, regardless of market access. In addition, ASF limits Russia’s export prospects, a limitation that will become increasingly relevant as production expands.
Nonetheless, a reduction in imported supplies would help mitigate the increasing saturation on the Russian pork market. As export opportunities are limited, domestic demand is key to supporting the Russian pork industry. Consumer demand was generally strong in 2017, but reported to be slowing in the second half of the year. Per capita growth in poultry meat consumption is outpacing pork, aided by the expansion of fast food chain restaurants. As such, while pork consumption grew 6% in 2016 and 3% in 2017, only a 1% expansion is anticipated for 2018, reaching 3.32 million tonnes.
The Federal Customs Service of Russia recorded a 14% year-on-year increase in fresh/frozen pork imports between January and October 2017- the first annual increase since 2012. The latest USDA attaché forecast had anticipated 2018 volumes could match 2017, assuming Brazil’s market access was maintained. However, this is uncertain. Using the EU as an example, Russia first introduced a 12-month veterinary ban on EU pork in 2014, which was only eventually removed in December last year. Despite this, EU pork is unlikely to return to the Russian market any time soon, due to the ongoing politically motivated food embargo, also introduced in 2014.
The removal of Russia’s current primary supplier of pork imports could tighten supplies, support prices and enable further expansion, a sentiment expressed by an official at Russia’s Ministry of Agriculture. This could then help Russia achieve its goal of self-sufficiency in most agricultural products by 2024; for pork this figure is currently around 90%. Ultimately however, it remains to be seen whether Russia will try to cope with further restricted pork imports for long, and whether the industry can expand to accommodate, given its serious problems with disease.
Bethan Wilkins, Analyst
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