Russian aquaculture industry seeks self-sufficiency in fingerlings

Russian aquaculture At least three new breeding centres are to be opened in Russia in the coming years

At least three new centres for breeding fingerlings for nearly dozen fish species should be established in various parts of Russia within the next few years, the officials from the Russian Federal Agency for Fisheries have confirmed, reports Vladislav Vorotnikov.

The main goal of these facilities is to supply the expected expansion of the domestic aquaculture industry and to reduce dependence on imports for this industry sector, reports Vladislav Vorotnikov.

With Russia on the verge of strong growth in its aquaculture industry, the number of companies officially registered for commercial fish farming in the country more than doubled from 1500 entities in 2014 to 3500 in 2016, according to Minister for Agriculture Alexander Tkachev.

However, production performance in the industry is still growing slowly, in spite of the numerous incentives allocated by federal authorities to support fish farms.

In the period from January to November 2017 Russian companies have produced 134,000 tonnes of aquaculture production, up by 15%, as compared to the same period of 2016, Ilya Shestakov, director of the Russian Federal Agency for Fisheries said.

This volume still makes only 66% of the target of 203,000 tonnes the Russian Federal Agency for Fisheries has set for the domestic aquaculture industry for the entire 2017, Ilya Shestakov admitted, also expressing hopes that an increase in production will be seen in the last months of the year.

The Federal Agency for Fisheries wants Russian aquaculture industry to reach an output of at least 315,000 tonnes of fish by 2020, double the figure for 2015 – the year when the federal fish farming programme was originally approved in Russia.

Numerous obstacles

However, as officials of the Russian Federal Agency for Fisheries have repeatedly claimed, there are still numerous obstacles on the way to this goal. Firstly, not everyone company engaged in fish farming business is aware about the amount of subsidies it has right to claim for.

Secondly, the industry is still short of high-quality feed production and fingerlings. Russian farms had imported these from the European Union and from Norway, but the 2014 international sanctions hit the exchange rate of the Ruble and undermined the feasibility of such trade.

According to Viktor Zaraiskiy, chairman of the Russian Association of Aquaculture Producers, Rosrybhoz, fish farming in the country was successfully growing prior to 2013 with an average profitability rate ranging from 20% to 25%.

However, after the so-called ‘Black Tuesday’ in December 2014, when the domestic currency dropped to half its value in one day on the Moscow Stock Exchange, there is no chance that the industry will be able to thrive or even survive without state support, he claimed.

The reasons for this are clear, as most of equipment, feed and seeding materials are imported and have to be paid for in for hard currency. In 2017 Russian farmers have to pay roughly double for this kind of equipment compared to 2013 price levels.

The situation for primary production is gradually improving, due to the activities of both state-owned and private hatcheries throughout the country, Ilya Shestakov said. In the period from January to November these facilities produced 7.5 million individual juvelines, outstripping the Federal Agency for Fisheries’ target for the whole of 2017 by 352 million units.

In 2016 Russia has produced 31,300 tonnes of seeding material, up by 26%, as compared to the previous year. However, the production volumes in the industry are growing primarily because of the introduction of the new environmental legislation in Russia in 2015, which obliges some types of business to invest into restoration of fish species population in internal waters.

Pledged breakthrough

According to the Russian Federal Agency for Fisheries, the shortage of seeding material should be solved almost completely with the launching of the three new centres. The first is planned to be built in the Karelia Republic within the two to three years. It will be based at the Vygsky hatchery and will focus on breeding salmon and trout fingerlings. The second centre is to be placed somewhere in Siberia, with specific location yet to be chosen, according to Ilya Shestakov. A third facility is planned for the Southern Federal District, probably close to Sochi. The parameters of this project have not yet been determined.

In general, according to Ilya Shestakov, Russia has been actively developing selection technologies in the aquaculture industry since the introduction of sanctions, so already the dependence on import supplies on seeding materials can be hardly called critical.

Nevertheless, the real boom in this niche should be seen in the five years from now, he stressed. This is when the Federal Agency for Fisheries centres will be finished, plus several private projects are also expected to be in operation. With the high-quality domestic seeding material available to the market in sufficient quantities, he expects Russia’s domestic aquaculture industry to become much more competitive.

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