Russia ban jams up Alaska salmon roe suppliers

Alaska salmon roe suppliers are in a major jam since Russia banned seafood imports from the U.S., the European Union, Canada, Norway and Australia on 6 August.

Russia and the Ukraine are the second biggest market for Alaskan salmon roe, behind Japan, which imported USD 125 million (EUR 94 million) worth of the valuable fish eggs in 2013, according to National Marine Fisheries Service data.

Alaska exported USD 60.4 million (EUR 45.5 million) worth of salmon roe, or 8,561 metric tons, to Russia in 2013, along with a significant USD 68 million (EUR 51.2 million), or 17,000 metric tons, to the Ukraine. The Ukraine is a re-processing center and a good percentage of the roe gets shipped back to Russia, Alexa Tonkovich, international program director for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI), told SeafoodSource.

“It’s a very substantial market. The impact on roe will be significant, in terms of pricing and trying to find other markets to absorb that product,” Tonkovich said. “Having diversified markets gives processors more leverage in terms of pricing.”

Plus, there is significant excess of salmon and other seafood on the market since Norway, which exports an estimated USD 1.1 billion (EUR 827.8 million) of seafood annually to Russia, is seeking other markets for its products as well. “That can have a huge impact on global salmon markets,” Tonkovich said.

After the ban, some Alaskan salmon roe suppliers were forced to re-route shipments. “There may be some shipments that sat there, and there may be some that were able to be re-routed before they got to Russia,” Tonkovich said. “There was some discussion that shipments that had already been paid for would be let through, but I don’t know if that’s the case.”

Despite the flood of salmon on the market, Alaska is looking to the EU, Japan, China (which imports USD 20 million (EUR 15.1 million) worth of salmon roe annually), and other countries to buy more of its salmon roe.

“There could potentially be more products going into Eastern European countries such as Kazakhstan. And we will probably increase our promotion of salmon roe in China, Germany, France, and other countries,” Tonkovich said.

ASMI is also working to develop new markets for salmon roe, but that is more of a long-term solution. “Brazil could potentially be a salmon roe market, but the catch is, companies would have to have registration to get salmon roe into Brazil,” Tonkovich said. No Alaska seafood exporters currently have the required product label registration for Brazil, a process that takes several months, according to Tonkovich.

Keep checking SeafoodSource for all the latest news on Russia’s ban on seafood exports


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