Russian meat giant plans huge lamb farming hub

By Vladislav Vorotnikov

- Last updated on GMT

Russia's picturesque Kursk Oblast region
Russia's picturesque Kursk Oblast region

Related tags Kursk oblast Domestic sheep Livestock Lamb

Agricultural holding Miratorg plans to construct a 30,000-strong sheep farm in Russia, and wants to build 10 more in the same region, creating one of the world’s largest lamb clusters.

The ambitious project, designed for Russia’s Kursk Oblast region, was confirmed by Miratorg’s president Viktor Linnik, following his meeting with the regional governor Alexander Mikhailov on 12 April.

Miratorg has already signed the preliminary investment agreement with the regional authorities, according to Linnik. He added that, if the first farm is successful, in future the company plans to build a cluster of 10 similar farms in Kursk Oblast. He did not estimate the planned total capacity of all the farms, stating only that a meat processing plant, also to be built within the project, would be able to process 1.5 million sheep per year.

Linnik stressed that this was a unique project and that Miratorg had been harbouring the idea for two years. The total project investment is RUB20 billion (US$330m) and the company plans to import all the sheep from Australia. Linnik also claimed all the sheep would be from one breed.

Nataliya Honcharova, head of the livestock department of Kursk Oblast, added that construction of the first farm would start soon.

Miratorg already owns the land where the project will be implemented. She also disclosed that, according to investment plans, Miratorg is likely to use the Dorper breed, explaining that this had certain advantages as there was no need to clip the sheep and they were fast-growing.

Dmitry Sergeev, press secretary of Miratorg, told GlobalMeatNews that, at the moment, the company was refusing to comment further on the project.

The non-transparent market

Mikhail Egorov, head of Russia’s National Union of Sheep Breeders, suggested that Miratorg’s project would probably become the largest in the world for the production of lamb. He said he did not know of any project of a similar scale elsewhere.

National Meat Association president Sergey Yushin added that this was probably the first industrial lamb production project in Russia. At the moment, the entire lamb market in the country is said to be under a “shadow” as slaughtering often takes place in unsanitary conditions in semi-legal slaughterhouses, added Yushin.

However, Miratorg’s project could have a great importance for the market, he noted, eventually leading to an increase in demand for lamb in Russia. According to official statistics, in 2016 Russia accounted for 24.8 million head of sheep, while the annual consumption of lamb in recent years has ranged between 1kg and 1.5kg per capita.

Meanwhile, some industry observers have pointed out that there are not enough sheep of the Dorper breed in Australia to meet the demands of Miratorg’s proposed cluster, at least at present, so it is unclear whether the agricultural holding really plans to import all its stock from that market.

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