In mid-March, speaking with Vladimir Putin, Russian agriculture minister Alexandr Tkachev said exports were the future of the country’s meat industry.
“We are now starting to export not only grain, but also poultry, pork and beef,” he said. “This is our future, with Asian markets, the Chinese market and Middle Eastern markets of particular interest. This is our top priority.”
Representatives of Russia’s meat organisations have supported Tkachev in his view that the most promising markets for developing exports are in the Middle East and Asia. According to Alexei Alexeenko, assistant head of Russian veterinary body Rosselkhoznadzor, Russian poultry processors are already preparing to export halal poultry to countries in the Persian Gulf and North Africa.
“Russia is currently negotiating exports of halal meat to Muslim countries, including Egypt, Iran, Iraq, the UAE and Saudi Arabia – and we are talking about quite huge export volumes,” Alexeenko claimed.
Since the beginning of 2016, Russian authorities have signed important meat export deals with Jordan and Egypt. Initially, the agreement to supply frozen beef and chicken could increase turnover between the two countries by US$260 million this year, according to forecasts from Russian officials.
In terms of Egypt, 12 Russian companies have been awarded the right to supply beef and poultry, including the largest turkey processor Damate. Experts suggest that halal standards in export markets might result in up to 25% of Russian poultry processing facilities being certified in accordance with Muslim standards.
Already in 2016, Russia’s largest meat producer Miratorg has launched test supplies of meat to the UAE and Bahrain. Head of the company Viktor Linnik said Miratorg was eyeing strong international expansion, bringing its share of exports from the current level of 5% of sales to 25% within the next few years.
According to Tkachev, Asian markets could be also promising. Within the next two to three years, he said, Russia could establish exports of 200,000 tonnes (t) of pork and poultry to the region, in particular to South Korea, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Taiwan and, primarily, China.
National Meat Association head Sergey Yushin believes the development of exports by Russian meat producers will allow them to sell parts of the carcase that are less popular on Russia’s domestic market. “For example, in China, consumers are willing to pay US$2 per 1kg of chicken feet, which are much, much cheaper in Russia,” Yushin explained. “Also, the Chinese market is not yet saturated with meat, even though, following the introduction of the Russian food embargo, US and EU companies sharply increased their meat supplies to this country.”
However, unlike the Middle East, the development of exports to the Asian market remains elusive. Since 2013 Russian authorities have claimed several times that exports to China would be launched soon, but actual deliveries are still not happening.