Russian Fishery Company upping production of frozen-at-sea pollock fillets

Published on
February 5, 2018

Russian Fishery Company is seeking to capitalize on Russia’s growing taste for pollock fillets by adding fillet production lines to several of its trawlers.

RFC, the leading pollock harvester in Russia, operates in the Bering Sea and the Sea of Okhotsk, running a fleet of 14 large freezer trawlers as well as its own refrigerated cargo fleet. RFC currently distributes its products through retailers, fish markets, and foodservice operators in Russia. 

RFC plans to install filleting lines to produce frozen-at-sea products on six more vessels in addition to the four already existing ones, the company said in a press release. Most of the modernization work will be carried out during the summer of 2018. The investment project, which has been preliminary approved by the firm’s board of directors, is aimed at increasing its production of pollock fillets by 60 percent. 

In addition, RFC has plans to build up to nine state-of-the-art super-trawlers, RFC CEO Andrey Teterkin said in a press release.

"We decided to extend the list of our advantages and started to convert the factories on our trawlers in order to increase the output of high value-added products,” Teterkin said. “In 2018, the company plans to use 30 to 40 percent of our pollock catch for fillet production. We are targeting to increase the share of high value-added products up to 95 percent within next five to six years, as long as our new build super-trawlers will be commissioned.“

Before 2017, the company’s key market was the European Union, but starting last year, RFC has been increasing its fillet sales in Russia, Dmitry Kravchenko, RFC’s corporate commutnications director, told SeafoodSource.  The additional volumes of FAS pollock fillets will primarily be sold in the domestic market in order to meet the growing demand for high-quality fish products in Russia, Kravchenko said.

The fishery expects 10 to 15 percent increase in pollock consumption in Russia in 2018, with an average annual growth being of about five percent during the next five to 10 years, Kravchenko added. Production of in Russia has been increasing since 2016, reflecting the growing popularity of pollock fillets among Russian  consumers. In 2016, fillet production volume grew by 34.8 percent in comparison to 2015, and the figure more than doubled between 2014 and 2015, according to research by Russia’s Pollock Catchers Association, following a shift in demand from frozen fish to fillet. As a consequence of an increase in production of fillets by Russian fisheries, in 2016 imports were three times less than in 2014, 

There is still great space for the demand to grow, the Pollock Catchers Association has said. Their figures show that annual average consumption of pollock in Russia is 2.5 kilogram per person, which is only about 12 to 13 percent of all the seafood products consumed per capita.

Historically, Russia lacked on-shore fish processing facilities, with most Russian fishing companies selling their harvest to Chinese on-shore processing companies. Their headed-and-gutted pollock blocks were defrosted, processed into fillets and other products – primarily as double-frozen fillet sold to the European Union and other markets, including back in Russia. 

Thus, the increased domestic processing of pollock fillets, along with higher domestic consumption of pollock in Russia, is expected to reduce the volume of double-frozen fillets produced by Chinese companies and sold to overseas markets.

Reporting from Saint Petersburg, Russia

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