How Russians missed the chance to 'gorge on' super-cheap pollock
Wednesday, January 12, 2022, 07:00 (GMT + 9)
A significant event took place in relations between Russia and China this year - for the first time, trade turnover exceeded $ 100 billion in three quarters. President Xi Jinping announced that he hopes for a record for the year as well.
The data of the Customs Service for January-September 2021 indicate that the pre-pandemic indicators of Russian exports to the PRC were exceeded by main items. Fuel supplies increased by 11% y-o-y, while wood supplies grew by 8%. True, one rather significant export component spoils the overall positive picture - fish. If in 9 months of 2019 we sold seafood to the Chinese for $ 1286 million, then this year we did not even come out in the amount of $ 715 million. They fell by almost half.
The catch is all right. The reason for the decline in exports is in the import restrictions that the Chinese side introduced due to the coronavirus. Mainly, the supply of pollock was affected, which accounts for about a third of the total catch of domestic fishermen. But every cloud has a silver lining. The domestic Russian market unexpectedly received a sharp increase in supply. Wholesale prices in Vladivostok are still far from last year's level. Moreover, from the peaks of 2019. In mid-December 2021, only 68 rubles are given for a kilogram of headless pollock carcasses with a length of 25 centimeters or more. And two years earlier it was 115 rubles.
Against the backdrop of a general rise in food prices in 2021, pollock, which is getting cheaper due to excess supply, would be very useful. In the Far East, many people still consider it food for cats, but in general it is a healthy dietary protein food. 100 grams of pollock contains 17 grams of protein and 1 gram of fat. And in pork, fat prevails over protein in a ratio of 24 to 20.
People who saw reports of redirecting fish to the domestic market in the news at the beginning of the year did not wait for the decline in retail prices. Today in the Lenta discounter (in St. Petersburg) you can buy a kilogram package of mass Russian fish (the same parameters as in the example of Vladivostok wholesale prices) for 189 rubles 99 kopecks. Ashan's “first price” is 179 rubles 49 kopecks per kilogram (as of 12/27/2021). Below "Outpost" in the St. Petersburg retail prices did not find.
When traveling from Vladivostok to the refrigerated display case of hypermarkets in the Northern capital, the price of fish increased by at least 2.6 times.
“Until now, in the so-called“ gray zone ”there is a difference between the price at which the fishermen sell their goods and the price that we see on the shelves. This difference is often significantly more than a fisherman gets for his very hard work, ”said Deputy Head of the Federal Agency for Fishery Vasily Sokolov at a meeting with representatives of the Antimonopoly Service in October 2021.
The publication "Forpost" became interested in the mechanics of pricing from the moment of active fishing from January to March until the period of pre-New Year purchases.
The wholesale price in central Russia, following Vladivostok, fell quite sharply in late winter - early spring 2021. However, retail did not rewrite price tags, since large stores are purchased in large quantities for several months in advance.
Wholesalers in Moscow and the regions also had stocks, but they were not ready to give fish at a loss. We chose a growth expectation tactic. Moreover, talk has begun about government procurement interventions that could stimulate a rise in prices. One of the major market participants publicly announced their expenses for 10 months of low-temperature storage. They have reached a quarter of the new price for a kilogram of pollock in Vladivostok.
The Far Easterners themselves demonstrated similar tactics. The warehouses there were filled to capacity. Traffic in insulated wagons and refrigerated containers has dropped. To compensate for the losses, the railroad workers almost doubled the tariffs. In mid-October, the Ministry of Agriculture had to subsidize railway workers for the transportation of 12.7 thousand tons of fish outside the Far Eastern Federal District at preferential rates.
By the time retailers needed to replenish stocks using the 2021 catch, the purchase price increased due to storage costs and increased transportation costs. In the meantime, exporters agreed to increase supplies of pollock to South Korea, which became a new factor in anticipating price increases.
However, the positive expectations of the fishmongers soon gave way to anxiety again. There is new information about Chinese intrigues: the export of 2022 is in question, since the PRC has introduced new rules for marking goods. That is, the domestic Russian market may again expect overproduction.
Nature is ironic as always. It responds to the warehouses of wholesalers filled with fish with a record for the last 40 years with a spawning stock of pollock in the Sea of Okhotsk in the amount of 12 million tons. The domestic market is capable of "digesting" only about 300 thousand tons per year. Or they could have switched to fish in an organized manner by the whole country.