Russian program targets tenfold increase in rabbit meat production

By Vladislav Vorotnikov

- Last updated on GMT

Rabbit meat production could increase if government redirects state support
Rabbit meat production could increase if government redirects state support
Production of rabbit meat in Russia could rise tenfold to 108,000 tonnes (t) per year by 2025, if the federal government is prepared to redirect state support and private investment to this segment from other meat industries such as pork and poultry.

This was the production target suggested by a national program dedicated to rabbit meat industry development, which recently submitted a report to the Council of Federation, the upper house of the Russian Parliament. The report estimated that Russian rabbit farmers could see their sales reach RUB30 billion ($500m) by 2025.

It also suggested growth in the industry should be driven by the state support, issued in the form of soft loans and direct payments made to new projects.

Gleb Kolosovsky, chairman of the Russian rabbit farming scientific institute and one of the authors of the report, claimed that investment from other segments of the Russian meat industry could be diverted to rabbit meat production. In particular, for some pig farmers it might be hard to keep breeding pigs due to the African Swine Fever (ASF) epidemic in Russia, so they could shift to producing rabbit meat on an average margin return comparable with the poultry industry, he said.

Lyubov Burdienko, commercial director of the Russian analytical agency EMEAT, told GlobalMeatNews​ that rabbit meat was a relatively healthy product, but the demand for it in Russia was low, so the strong rise in its production forecast by the report needed to be accompanied by some promotion of this type of meat among consumers.

The main challenge for Russia’s rabbit meat industry is the complete dependence on imported breeding animals. To purchase breeding stock, Russian farmers spend RUB1.5bn ($25m) annually​,” Burdienko estimated.

According to Albert Davleyev, president of the Russian consulting agency Agrifood Strategies, overall rabbit meat production in Russia has been stable for the past few years and is currently estimated at 15-16,000t, of which more than 90% is produced in backyard farms. Industrial production showed first signs of growth in 2014-2016, when several projects were announced and started in various regions of Russia, but most of them had failed, he said, including the largest production facility in Tatarstan – ‘Russian Rabbit’, which went bankrupt at the end of last year. 

The targeted level of 108,000t in rabbit meat production by 2025 is too ambitious for the conservative Russian market, which is already supplying 78kg of meat per capita per year, including poultry, pork, beef and lamb. Rabbit meat is one of the most expensive items offered, at prices sometimes higher than beef or turkey meat. It has a rather limited target buying group​,” Davleyev said. 

Even considering the current upward trend in meat consumption and a drive towards healthier foods and living patterns, one should realise that such an increase would take a much longer time than is indicated in the report, as it would take a huge amount of time and investment to build up an image that would sell this amount of product. It took the Russian turkey industry 12 years to increase domestic turkey production and consumption from 15,000t in 2002 to 109,000t in 2014. Now, the situation is quite different and the market is saturated with much more affordable meats like poultry and pork​,” he added. 

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