There is a hot discussion about possible consequences of Russia's WTO participation.
Some were discussed at recent meeting of the Russian fish processing
enterprises representatives with Maxim Medvedkov, Director of Ministry
of Economic Development of the Russian Federation.
During the conference Medvedkov, who is also responsible for
negotiations with the World Trade Organization, made a number of
important statements. In particular, he said that “Russia’s WTO
accession does not impose constraints on Russia in the implementation of
technical measures to control imported seafood. However, use of these
measures should be more careful.” (In plain text: technical regulations
such as sanitary and veterinary are becoming the main instrument for the
Russian seafood market regulation).
According to the insider, during the meeting it was announced the
establishment of a committee to study the effects of Russia’s joining
the WTO, and adaptation of the domestic fishing industry to the WTO
rules. It’s interesting to consider, that the representatives of the
fish processing enterprises who participated said they knew nothing
about the WTO rules, nor the consequences for their business after the
Russia’s accession to WTO.
Besides, two questions about the draft EU-Russia agreement were
touched. First of them concerning assistance of export of Alaska Pollock
fillets to Europe, and second - elimination of existing barriers for
imports of fish meal to China.
But what can you say about the following news about temporary banned import of all Norwegian fresh fish to Russia.
Last week Russian Rosselkhoznanzor (veterinary authority) made a
preliminary motion to temporarily terminate all imports of Norwegian
fresh fish, but it’s still unknown when it will be put into force.
According to the Russian veterinary agency, all imports of Norwegian
fresh farmed fish can be stopped next week.
The reason, or maybe a pretext, is that Rosselkhoznanzor has serious
concerns about sanitary problems with shipments of fresh fish from
Norway. In 2011, when Russia became Norway’s largest salmon market, the
bulk of all imported fish (nearly 97 percent) consisted of fresh fish.
However, Russia introduces import restrictions on fresh fish on a
regular base, applying them to certain suppliers whose batches were
identified as containing unwanted bacteria like salmonella. But this is
the first time when a ban is considered on all exporters.
Spokesperson Alexey Alexeyenko said that Norwegian authorities
inspect only 1 percent of the fish batches exported to Russia, and that
is unacceptably low. He believes 25 percent would be a more acceptable
Ole Fjetland, assisting director at the Norwegian Food Safety
Authority’s (NFSA) control department, still has not expressed his
opinion for exact reasons of a restriction.
In my opinion, any restriction on import of any goods, especially
from neighboring countries should always be considered very carefully.
As for consequences that the ban, if imposed, will bring to Russia’s
fish market, I would highlight three main things.
First, the import
restriction will stimulate growth of salmon price since it will
considerably reduce access to the raw material for fish processors.
Second, the ban for Norwegian fish can become a green light for
imported frozen salmon from Chile producers actively trying to find
their ways to the tight Russian market.
And third, Norwegian salmon restrictions are absolutely favorable to
Russian salmon and trout producers. Even though domestic output has been
low so far, but it shows a positive trend, and this situation will
further boost local producers. So it can be just a short-term measure to
provide advantage to national fish producers.
There’s also another thing to consider. As I learned, in January
Russia’s anti-monopoly agency started an investigation into the
veterinary agency, and the cause was in its probable colluding with
Russia’s largest importers from Norway. According to accusations,
Rosselhoznanzor was using sanitary pretexts for restricting imports from
those Norwegian suppliers who did not have contracts with Russia’s main
importers. It’s also worth mentioning a recent scandal with cheeses
imported to Russia from Ukraine when the pretext was exactly the same,
i.e. alleged sanitary issues. However, most analysts agreed that the
real reason was connected with politics. So the ban of Norwegian fish
may be also a tip of an iceberg public does not see yet.
In my personal opinion taking all above into consideration, I believe
that the ban will be (if at all) a short-term measure. Restrictions, if
they are not properly motivated, are always bad for any economy. They
may create advantages for producers that may not be the best, but
“compliant.” In a long run it destroys consumer confidence and
Note on the side, and please don’t take it as an attempt to advertise
my product, I believe everyone should try wild pink and chum salmon
from Sakhalin. Although the price of it tends to be higher than its
farmed sister species, I believe the taste in consumer’s mouth is a good
point for consideration.
Saying this I’m boarding a plane to Brussels. See you there!