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Russia to ban Norwegian fish imports, yet not entirely

December 23, 2013, 16:01 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
© EPA/Claudio Reyes

MOSCOW, December 23. /ITAR-TASS/. Light-salted salmon fishes - salmon, trout, lax and others, red fish in common parlance - are Russians’ favorite delicacy, an invariable treat of all festive tables. But the most popular fish, Norwegian, has obviously enjoyed less demand recently, and buyers’ unwillingness is not only due to hiked prices - many have heard “something is wrong” with Norwegian fish, though most know nothing more about this.

It is true that Rosselkhoznadzor (the Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance) has imposed a ban on Norwegian fish and fish products import from January 1, 2014. But not all fish. Red fish lovers can heave a sigh of relief - the embargo will not affect salmon and trout.

From next year on, only 29 of the 617 Norwegian fish farms will be allowed to supply cod, mackerel, herring, halibut and perch to the Russian market - these are the facilities earlier checked by veterinary specialists. Even so, they will need to pass triple redundancy laboratory control. Salmon and trout, both fresh and frozen, will be imported without restrictions.

An aide to the watchdog’s head, Aleksey Alekseyenko, explained to Itar-Tass, salmon fishes are not yet under the ban, as Russian and Norwegian companies have set up a control system and are ready to sift out uncompliant products themselves.

The inspections followed detection of live nematoda larvae (parasitic worms) in a consignment of cooled cod liver supplied by Norway’s Tobo Fisk AS.

According to the head of Rosselkhoznadzor, Sergey Dankvert, the ban ensued from Norwegian suppliers’ failure to comply with Russian veterinary requirements, while the Norwegian food security service Mattilsynet does not oversee the safety of the supplied products.

Previously, in November, Rosselkhoznadzor limited the import of Norwegian cod liver and ling.

Russia is the world’s major buyer of Norwegian cooled fish. According to the Norwegian Seafood Council, over eleven months of 2013 Norway exported to Russia 265,739 tonnes of fish and seafood 691 million euros worth. However, salmon and trout make up 45.7 percent of this amount, with the rest shared by herring, mackerel and capelin.

The Federal Agency for Fishery, Rosrybolovstvo, forecasts a Russian salmon market of 400,000 tonnes this year, with 150,000 tonnes made up by Norwegian products.

But fish prices should remain unchanged even after the ban, market players believe.

The chief executive of the Russian Sea group, Dmitry Dangauer, is quoted by the Kommersant daily as saying that Norway is Russia’s main foreign supplier of cooled salmon and trout, but it does not lead by supplies of other products like herring, mackerel and capelin.

“These are fished in sufficient amounts in our country, so no price growth is to be expected,” he believes.

However, following Rosselkhoznadzor’s statement about a possible embargo, both retail and wholesale prices for salmon and trout have gone up by almost 25% since December 13. According to Rosrybolovstvo’s weekly retail and wholesale fish price monitoring, quoted by the Izvestia daily, the minimal wholesale price for Norwegian salmon had increased 25.8% (over a month since November 20), from 290 roubles (about $8.8) to 340 roubles (about $10.3) for one kilogramme. Meanwhile, the highest wholesale price went up 17% from 310 roubles ($9.4) to 390 roubles ($11.8) per kilogramme.

In the meantime, perils await Russian customers not only in the North. This year Rosselkhoznadzor has repeatedly revealed dangerous microbes and bacteria in Chinese fish products. From the start of the year alone the watchdog has introduced the regime of intensive control over Chinese fish products 86 times, while supplies from 17 facilities were even temporary limited.

In November over 16 tonnes of frozen fish from the US were detained in the Pskov Region. Russia has also suspended export from some fish farms in Lithuania and Estonia. The veterinary watchdog has also revealed a contaminated consignment of dried yellow stripe trevally from Vietnam.

What happens if fish imports are banned completely? Nothing serious, specialists assure. Russian fish prevails on supermarket shelves and shop counters. “Russian-produced fish accounts for 78 percent of all available amount,” Rosrybolovstvo’s press officer Alexander Savelyev is quoted by Itogi magazine. “We are able to meet the entire domestic fish market demand and also have an excellent export potential.


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