Russia sets ambitious aquaculture targets

Russia Aq Northern Russia is one of the leading Russian regions ащк aquaculture production

The long-term strategy for Russian aquaculture development is to produce 700,000 tonnes at fish farms annually by 2030, reports Vladislav Vorotnikov.

That is according to Ilya Shestakov, the head of the Russian Federal Fisheries Agency, speaking earlier this year.

By comparison, in 2016 the output of Russian fish farms came to 174,000 tonnes of commercial production, Ilya Shestakov said, referring to the official statistical data. Each year Russian government allocates a level of financial aid to the fish farms. In 2016 it reached Rub 400 million (US$6.5 million), while in 2017 the total will be slightly lower, he added.

In state-owned part of the industry some growth should be achieved through the synergy of production assets and their better management, he suggested. Prior to 2016, the Russian government owned almost a hundred aquaculture facilities operating as the separate entities. However, recently all these farms were united into single holding under the Glavrybvod name.

It is expected that the heads of Glavrybvod will design a common comprehensive programme for the development of the state-owned part of Russia’s aquaculture sector. In particular, the newly established holding will choose at which farms some breeding centres and hatcheries must be placed, although they will serve the needs of the entire holding.

ILya Shestakov commented that to encourage private investors into aquaculture, the Federal Fisheries Agency over the past two years also did a great job on the legal field, fixing numerous problems and gaps in the country’s legislation, in particular in terms of the lend and use of the water reservoirs under aquaculture projects.

He listed primarily areas in the southern and northern provinces of European Russia, including Rostov Oblast, Astrakhan Oblast, Krasnodar Krai, Murmansk Oblast and the Republic of Karelia as those that have showed the greatest pace of growth, and did not say anything about aquaculture in the country’s Far East.

Even if it hits the ambitious targets for the growth of aquaculture production by 2030, Russia will still be a relatively minor player on a global scale, but he said that particular focus should be placed on the production of sturgeon caviar, a premium product, which has historically been considered a Russian national dish.

Ilya Shestakov said that by 2030, Russia should boost production in this sector to 180 tonnes to give it a 15% share of the global market.

This is not the first time that the Russian government has set targets for rapid growth in aquaculture. In 2013 when Parliament passed the On Aquaculture bill, the medium-term development programme envisaged that by 2020 an annual production of 320,000 tonnes would be achieved. This figure now seems unreachable and the pace of growth in the industry is much more moderate in comparison to the original estimates of the federal authorities.

Dmitry Vostrikov, head of the Russian Association of Food Producers and Supplies, said that the main challenge for aquaculture producers is how to sell their products to the final customers. Nowadays, retail chains require contractors to maintain regular supplies with sustainable production quality, but most fish farms in Russia are small entities with annual production volumes of up to 50 tonnes, leaving them unable to meet these requirements.

In addition, according to official statistics from the Russian Federal Fisheries Agency, the efficiency of most fish farms in the country leaves much to be desired. In particular, in Rostov Oblast the average yield from one hectare stands at 100kg. The office of the regional governor attributed this problem to the extremely poor level of technology at most farms, saying that in terms of science, Russian aquaculture lags behind.

Speaking earlier this year during a press conference the Federal Fisheries Agency’s deputy head Vasily Sokolov said that several institutes in the country received government instructions to conduct studies on possible improvement in efficiency, adding that the authorities plan to share the findings of those studies with the producers on a free basis. However, he did not provide any information on when any real results could be achieved.

Another one obstacle for the Russian aquaculture is very poor range of the manufactured products. According to Federal Fisheries Agency estimates, 65% of all commercial products in the industry are for carp, 24% for salmon and 11% for other species. There are no farms for production of high-value sturgeon species.

The key point is that for Federal Fisheries Agency aquaculture industry has a great social importance. Fish consumption in Russia has only reached only 17.5kg per capita, compared to 24kg recommended by the country’s Health Ministry. The food embargo enforced in 2014 wiped out some imported production from the market and sent prices rising. In this context, the Federal Fisheries Agency sees aquaculture as the main source of affordable fish for Russia’s population and so it will simply have no choice but to promote aquaculture’s further development in the coming years.

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