Russian imports of fresh and frozen pork were significantly higher in the first quarter (Q1) of 2016 than in the same period of 2015, reports the pork group of the UK’s Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board (AHDB Pork).

The total figure was up 59 percent to 50,200 metric tons (mt). Most of the total – 45,900 mt – was supplied by Brazil, which increased its volume by 86 percent. Other countries increasing their supplies were Chile, Kazakhstan and Paraguay.

Although volumes were still way below those prior to the 2014 trading ban, they confirm that Russia is still using foreign product to meet demand, according to AHDB Pork, as low global prices make imports more attractive. This applies particularly to Brazil, where the devaluation of the real has means that Brazilian pork is 24 percent cheaper than it was a year ago.

Russia exporting more pig meat

Other figures from the Federal Customs Service of Russia show that the country is succeeding in its aim to export more pig meat. Compared to just 500 mt for Q1 of 2015, exports rose by a factor of 7 to 3,700 mt for the same period of this year. Main destinations for Russian pig meat were Ukraine and Belarus.

According to the report, there has been significant investment in the pig production industry in Russia, with the government heavily subsidizing pig production investment projects, with the aim for the country to be self-sufficient in pork by 2020. However, with domestic pork consumption falling, AHDB Pork sees a risk of Russian expansion further fueling global oversupply in this sector.

With the aim to raise Russia’s profile as a global player in the sector, the Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance (FSVPS) reports a recent visit by high-level officials from Thailand, where discussions focused on animal health and food safety issues with the view to mutual trade between the two countries in pig meat in future.

When will Russia achieve self-sufficiency in pork?

While Russian achievements in raising meat production are not disputed, analysts differ in their forecasts of the date when the country will achieve self-sufficiency, according to Farm Gate to Fork.

Forecasts from the Agriculture Institute ICAR indicate that the greatest reductions in imports will occur in the next few years, and this year, it expects a fall of 35 percent in imports of pig meat products to 240,000-250,000 mt.

On the other hand, market analyst IMIT says Russian pork imports might actually rise slightly this year. This view is supported by the National Swine Union, whose analyst explains that, because the total pig meat supply last year was 21 percent or 338,000mt down on the 2014 figure, imports in 2016 may increase slightly, thanks mainly to increased volumes from Brazil.