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Pollock does not go to China

The incipient Sea of ​​Okhotsk pollock fishing line is under threat of disruption. Will Russian fishery producers be able to meet the requirements of the main consumer - China?

China, which has suspended the import of frozen products from a number of countries, is ready to accept Russian fish in its ports in strict compliance with additional requirements for the production, storage and transportation of seafood. The relevant services of the PRC have prepared technical guidelines for the control and prevention of coronavirus, however, the existing logistics does not completely exclude the risk of contamination of products with the causative agent of COVID-19. Rosrybolovstvo hopes for a dialogue with the Chinese side, but at the same time suggests that fishermen look for other markets for their products besides China.

Pollock does not go to China
Photo: RRPK
The relevance of the issue is due to the fact that from January to April in the Far East, pollock fishing passes - the most significant in terms of the volume of aquatic biological resources extracted. Alaska pollock catch reaches 1,5 million tons, while most of the catch is exported, primarily to China.

Reference: The Russian Far East exports aquatic biological resources to about 50 countries. In 2019, the macroregion exported more than 1,5 million tons of various seafood, which is 76% of the total Russian value in terms of volume and 68% in value. China is the leading export destination for seafood. The volume of supplies to this country in 2019 amounted to about 1 million tons.
In the structure of exports, the main share in terms of physical and value volume is occupied by products of a low price category (84,5% in terms of physical volume and 62% in terms of value) - this is mainly raw fish. The largest volume is provided by the export supplies of pollock (at the end of 2019 - 59% of the weight and 48% of the cost).


Difficulties with the export of Far Eastern seafood to the PRC were observed throughout 2020. Chinese government agencies explained the strengthening of control by repeated cases of detection of the pathogen COVID-19 in imported food products, including on packages of Russian fish. In mid-November, in the ports of the Celestial Empire, another tightening of the procedure for receiving seafood was adopted. In fact, every crate of fish was checked for the presence of coronavirus, as a result, the ship's unloading speed slowed down from a maximum of two to 10 days. "A sharp increase in the time for unloading transport ships in the ports of the PRC paralyzes the work of the fishing fleet," the All-Russian Association of Fisheries Enterprises, Entrepreneurs and Exporters (VARPE) emphasized in an appeal to the Russian government. According to VARPE, the situation threatens with a large-scale disruption during the Okhotsk pollock fishing season: the shortage of Russian fishermen may amount to 0,5 million tons, and financial losses - 42 billion rubles.
The likelihood of a worst-case scenario rose sharply when the main fish ports in Qingdao and Dalian closed down to seafood at the end of the year (overall, China suspended imports of frozen food from 21 countries).
Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Yuri Trutnev joined the solution of the problem, who sent a corresponding appeal to the Deputy Prime Minister of the State Council of the People's Republic of China Hu Chunhua. In it, he assured his Chinese counterpart that the Russian side will take comprehensive measures to prevent cases of transboundary spread of infection by ship crews or through exported fish. However, the situation remains uncertain.
“As far as we can see, this appeal (Trutneva - Ed.), Apparently, did not reach the addressee, no action was taken on this matter. We believe that now this issue needs to be considered at the highest level, at the level of the heads of both governments and states, '' Maxim Kozlov, president of the Association of Fishing Enterprises of the Sakhalin Region, told EastRussia. - We need some kind of bilateral negotiations with an understanding of how we will continue to work and live. Putin is under threat, as is the fishermen's economy. There were no such shocks in the industry: for decades we have been supplying fish to China in accordance with the established procedure, and now the closure of China is a collapse. "
According to the Federal Agency for Fishery, problems with the sale of fish products due to quarantine restrictions in the PRC are already making themselves felt: in the Far East region, they led to a 6,5% reduction in the price of pollock (up to 72 rubles / kg in the wholesale segment of the market) and by 4,4 , 65% herring (XNUMX rubles / kg). For consumers, lower prices in conditions of increased supply are certainly beneficial, which cannot be said about the business of the fishermen themselves.


In order to streamline export shipments, China has developed two technical guidelines for controlling and preventing coronavirus in the production, storage and transportation of seafood. “Two new documents have appeared: requirements for disinfection of fish products and requirements for control. Now we are studying them. We hope that this is the very step that will make it possible to move to an objective method of control over exported products and to a constructive solution to the current situation, - says the Minister of Fisheries of the Kamchatka Territory Andrey Zdevetsky. - Of course, everyone is interested in security measures taken by both fishermen and government agencies. Now our priority task is for our Chinese partners to see our interest and readiness to solve this problem in every way possible for us. "
At present, all interested participants in foreign economic activity are ready to comply with Chinese requirements and in the majority have the technical capability, informs the FSBI "National Center for the Safety of Aquatic Fisheries and Aquaculture Products" (NCBSP). Enterprises operate a food safety management system in accordance with the interim recommendations of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Health Organization "COVID-19 and Food Safety: A Guide for Enterprises." However, in the technical manual provided by the Chinese authorities, the NCBDP clarified, there is no method for performing the disinfection procedure, the development of instructions is required. In addition, exporters would like to know what specific means are used by the controlling services in the ports of the PRC when receiving Russian fish in order to be able to purchase and use them at the stage of preparing export consignments.
So, in Kamchatka, at one of the large refrigerated warehouses in the region, they began to carry out disinfection using liquid smoke generators when loading products into refrigerated containers. Although this entails an increase in loading time, this measure significantly reduces the risk that the cargo will be infected with the coronavirus.
When it comes to the classic way of transporting frozen fish in holds, it becomes more difficult to comply with the requirements. Considering that after the production enterprise (vessel), the products are reloaded more than once before the final loading for export to China, the processing of containers at the production facility does not exclude the risk of product contamination during transport, loading and unloading operations, the NCBRP warns. This minimizes all safety measures taken in the workplace. In addition, most manufacturers use paper containers without an outer laminated coating, which can be damaged by airborne or dispersed irrigation.


At present, the Russian side continues a dialogue with its Chinese counterparts on the joint development of inspection methods and protocols for the supply of fish from Russia to China, said Deputy Head of the Federal Agency for Fishery Petr Savchuk on January 15 at a meeting with the Far Eastern regions. At the same time, the authorities of the Celestial Empire are taking a tough stance. "China expects from us to recheck all Russian enterprises and vessels interested in the supply of fish products, taking into account the violations revealed," the deputy head of the Federal Agency for Fishery emphasized.
The Association of Alaska Pollock Catchers did not respond to EastRussia's request about the fishing season that had begun. One of the large fishing companies said that due to the uncertainty of the situation with exports to China, they did not comment on this topic.
But even if the PRC now resumes receiving fish, this will not last long. According to the president of the Association of Fishery Enterprises of the Sakhalin Region, the Chinese authorities have decided to provide workers at sea checkpoints with New Year's holidays (they will celebrate the New Year in China on February 12) from January 28. “China will be completely closed. In the next two weeks, we will probably understand that we need to stop fishing, because there will be nowhere to supply products. This is a catastrophic problem, ”said Maxim Kozlov.
Rosrybolovstvo speaks of the need to look for alternative logistics schemes for supplying markets other than China. In particular, fishermen were offered to reorient the flow of fish products to processing facilities in Vietnam, Thailand and other countries of Southeast Asia. In addition, it is necessary to maximize the use of onshore capacities in Russia, including those introduced in the Far East under the program of investment quotas. “We need to concentrate on the production of highly processed products (fillets, minced meat) and increase supplies to the domestic market, including social facilities, schools, hospitals, etc.,” said Petr Savchuk.
It is very difficult to find an alternative to China now, admits the Minister of Fisheries of Kamchatka Andrei Zdevetsky. The PRC is not only a major consumer of pollock; there are large fish processing facilities there, aimed, among other things, at further export of processed products. According to the minister, the course for the development of processing on the Russian coast is correct, but it will take more than one year.
“This (reorientation of commodity flows - Ed.) Can be done, but it takes time,” agrees Maxim Kozlov. "And there is no time: Putin is coming, almost all transport ships are loaded." As for the domestic market, he continues, the state will is needed to organize centralized purchases and supplies of pollock and other Pacific fish to social institutions, the Defense Ministry, etc. “It is clear that our market will not absorb the entire volume of pollock production, but this would alleviate the problem a little,” concluded Maxim Kozlov.
September 22: current information on coronavirus in the Far East
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