It has suggested that Russian consumers in general were unhappy as they had lost the ability to purchase quality imported products, and were not willing to switch to Russian alternatives.
“There are risks of not gaining full compensation for lost volumes of food imports, banned from a number of countries,” stated the report. “This includes some meat product categories, as well as dairy products, in particular some types of cheese.”
“In addition, after becoming used to high-quality products, Russian buyers are refraining from purchasing Russian alternatives of lower quality [compared with the banned products],” the report added. “So Russian consumers will not spend money on domestic products when there is a deterioration in quality.”
Representatives of the meat and dairy industry association criticised the Accounts Chamber’s report, while consumer protection organisations hinted that at least some part of the study made sense.
Meat, dairy, cheese
“Russians should not fear a deficit in meat, dairy and cheese products in 2016,” said vice-president of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs David Yakobashvili. “Our neighbours, including Belarusian [manufacturers] offer good-quality products,” he said. “We can always use them [to meet the internal demand].”
However, he admitted that the process of substituting imports in the meat industry would be slow, due to the long payback periods needed for investment projects and the limited opportunities for companies to purchase imported equipment and components
The National Meat Association (NMA) also stated that Russian consumers need not fear a shortage of meat in 2016.
“It is strange that the Accounts Chamber has not applied statistical data, which show that our dependence on imports decreased significantly compared to 2014,” stated the NMA’s head of the executive committee Maxim Sinelnikov. “According to the NMA’s forecasts, at year-end our dependence on imports will amount to only 6%.”
Pork, poultry, beef
According to official statistical data, last year Russia faced the biggest decrease in the volume of pork imports which reduced by 40% to 362,100 tonnes (t) against 603,000t in 2013. Imports of poultry decreased by 19.8% to 355,900t from 443,600t in 2013 and supplies of beef decreased 8.2% to 534,700t from 582,700t.
As a result, the overall reduction in meat imports reached almost 400,000t, and this year the reduction in meat imports will be similar, amid the devaluation of the Russian rouble. Production volumes for pork in 2014-2015 are expected to rise by 239,000t, poultry by 307,000t, and beef by 30,000–40,000t, according to data from the country’s Agriculture Ministry.
Experts suggested the policy to replace imports still lagged behind the reduction in imports. However, an important factor will be a decrease in consumption, which is forecast to drop from 10.8m t in 2014 to 10.5m t this year.