Russian Apple Imports 2017 up for the First Time Since 2013

In the period from 2013 to 2017, the import of apples fell from 1.40 to 0.71 million MT, according to the data of the report “Analysis of the apples market in Russia” prepared by BusinesStat.

“The main reason for the reduction in imports in these years was Russia 2014 reaction on the sanctions, boycotting the import of agricultural products (including apples) from the EU, USA, Canada, Australia and Norway”, the publication reads.

It is specified that the growth was registered for the first time in five years in 2017 by 2.7%. In addition, over this period, the structure of imports has changed in the supplier countries. So, in 2013 and 2014 years. The main supplier of apples to the Russian market was Poland, whose share in total supplies was 37.2 – 50.3%. Import from this country stopped due to the decision to ban the import of fruit by the Rosselkhoznadzor on August 1, 2014.

The main importer in 2015 was Belarus with 518,000 MT(51.5%). According to statistics of BusinesStat, the volume of supplies of Belarus has increased 4.5 times since 2013. Market participants expressed the opinion that the most likely reason for the increase in Belorussian supplies was the re-export of apples from other countries.

In the following years (2016-2017), the supply of apples from Belarus to Russia declined and in 2017 amounted to 58,400 MT.

Turkish export figures of fruits and veg to Russia first quarter of 2018

Turkey has exported 74,119 MTof mandarin to Russia in the first quarter of 2018 and generated a revenue of $42.3 million USD in return.

East Black Sea Region Exporters Association President Ahmet Hamdi Gurdogan: “In order to develop the trade relations between two countries, it is imperative to lift the restrictions and form strategic partnerships. This is the only way two countries can full fill its potential in trade relations.”

According to the released figures, the exports of mandarin increased 31 % in volume and 36% in value compared to the first quarter of 2017. Mandarin is followed by lemon with 50,375 MT, oranges with 32,325 MT and apples with 22,625 MT.

From the East Black Sea Region in the same period, 51,196 MT of fruits and vegetables are exported to Russia generating a revenue of $30.8 million. 21,401 MT of these exports were mandarins which accounted for $12.2 million in trade.

President Ahmet Hamdi Gurdogan: ”The numbers display a 91% increase in exports of fruits and vegetables to Russia compared to last year’s first quarter. The rise in revenue is actually even higher at 112%. Turkey exports fruits and vegetables to Russia mostly and it has become the primary for Turkish fruits and vegetables. It is a huge market and we are trying to improve our share in this market even more. That’s why we select our best products for exports and Russian consumers started to prefer specifically Turkish products.

Most of the restrictions imposed by Russia which were put in place in 2016 due to political crisis between two countries, have already been lifted. However there are still some remaining restrictions regarding tomato exports where only certain firms are granted permission to export tomatoes. This creates unfair competitive environment for our growers and we would like this restriction to be removed as well. This way more Turkish growers will be able to export their tomatoes to Russia and Russian consumers will be able to access the products at a better price.

Russian Apple Production is a Long Way From Self Sufficiency

Despite efforts to become self-sufficient in apple production after the embargo, recent figures confirm that the country is far from being able to produce enough apples to meet domestic consumption.

According to the Ministry of Health, the average Russian consumes 50 kg of apples per year, yet, according to AB-Center, recent total production would only amounts to 5.8 kg per year per consumer. This amount includes all apples, including those for processing, so when it comes to the amount of apples for fresh consumption, the amount per person would fall even lower.

Although it seems like self-sufficiency is far from a reality, Rosstat has estimated that the total production of top fruits, a majority of these being apples, did grow by 15% in 2016. In addition, independent experts have reported that the share of imported products on shelves has, for the first time in many years, given way to Russian apples.

Although apple imports have decreased since the embargo, a recent report from UN Comtrade said that Russia is still number 3 on the list of largest apple importers in the world in 2016, with a share of 6%, totalling 678,600 mt of fresh apples. This amount had already reached 622,200 mt in the first 11 months of 2017.

In the first half of 2017, the majority of apple imports were coming in from Serbia and Moldova, with 32.1% and 26.2%, respectively. Other major suppliers include China, Belarus, Chile, Azerbaijan, South Africa and New Zealand. Bosnia and Herzegovina had also been a significant apple importer to Russia, but this is currently on hold after Rosselkhoznadzor placed a ban on the country following suspicions that they were exporting apples from Poland as their own.

Russia Renews Ban on Import of Apples from Bosnia and Herzegovina

About a year and a half after the regular export of BiH (Bosnia and Herzegovina) apples in Russia was resumed, the ban is set to take effect again. The reason behind this is that inspections have once more determined that some enterprises in Republika Srpska violate the agreement.

The ban had originally been imposed when there was a problem with the origin of the apples: although they appeared as RS products, they turned out not to be. They  originated, in fact, from other countries. The agreement between Russia and BiH says that apples and other fruit and vegetables must be an original BiH product, not the product from third countries. reported that Minister of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations of BiH, Mirko Šarović, confirmed that the Russian Federation has again imposed a ban on imports of apples from BiH that comes into force Monday, January 22. He explained that the certificate for controversial apples was issued by the phytosanitary inspection in Brcko District, BiH, and transported to the Russian market as a local product.

Russia Will Be a True Competitor in the Apple Sector

The fact that Russia aims at being self-sufficient as regards the production of fruit and vegetable is common knowledge. According to economist Gianluca Bagnara, the Russian ban against European produce is just a test to organise its own production chain.

During a recent convention, Jochen Kager from AgroFresh illustrated his report on “New apple orchards in Eastern Europe or east of Europe?”. According to official data, Russia grows apples on 209,240 hectares producing on average 15 MT per hectare. New plans are strictly connected to state funding.

“The first so-called ‘high-density’ orchards were planted in 2002 in Krasnodar and Crimea. Investors relied on Europe for technical skills, plants and systems and developed projects covering as much as 1,000 hectares each. Today, 10,000 new hectares have been planted planted in Krasnodar as well as 3,000 in Kabardino-Balkaria and an additional 1,000 in surrounding areas. Another 6,000 might be planted over the next three years.”

Granny Smith apples are losing popularity, while 30% of the new orchards are of the Fuji variety. “There is a lot of interest for scab-resistant varieties, while organic production methods are not an objective yet. New orchards are covered with anti-hail nets, while often there is not enough water for anti-frost systems. State funding can cover up to 75% of costs.”

Other nations
Poland can count on 180 thousand hectares, 60,000 of which equipped with modern systems. Professional orchards might grow by 10% over the next three years. Kager reported that Polish operators are adapting quickly to the Indian and North African markets. Currently, producers plant mainly Gala (40%), Red Delicious (20%), Red Prince (20%), Golden (15%) and new Champion clones.

Over the next few years, new competitors might emerge, Serbia, Croatia and Macedonia all expanded their cultivated areas (from 2,000 hectares on 2008 to 5,000). Montenegro cultivates 700 modern hectares and is not included in the ban.

In addition, Kazakhstan is becoming an exporter. According to state data, 55% of apple orchards are of the modern type. The closest markets are Russia and China and the most popular varieties are Gala (40%), Red (20%), Golden (20%), Granny (10%) and Fuji.

Uzbekistan is growing too, with 1,000 hectares of traditional orchards and 800 hectares of modern orchards.

China is a totally different matter, as it has 2.32 million hectares, 40% are still to modernise. It could be an excellent outlet for nursery gardeners and service suppliers from Italy as well, but businesses must get organised and work as a team.


In Russia, the consumption of apples and pears decreased

According to analysts of Growth Technology company, average consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables per capita fell by 19% for the past 3 years in Russia. During 2016, average consumption of fruits and berries was 52 kg, while in 2013-2014, it was 64 kg. The analysts include fruits bought in shops and markets, as well as grown in private orchards, in the total amount. The amount of fruit and berries from private orchards accounts for 68% of the total amount, but the share is going down due to urbanization of the country.

Pome fruit, and especially apples, have always been the most popular fruit in Russia. Average fresh apple consumption is 25 – 30 kg, and more than half of them are imported. In spring and early summer, the share of imported pome fruits sharply increase due to the lack of a modern storage facilities.

Almost 20 MT of Apples and Pears Destroyed in Tomsk

Employees of the Rosselkhoznadzor and Tomsk customs found 19.5 tonnes of apples and pears in the logistics centre of the municipality of Zorkaltsev which were prohibited from being imported into the territory of the Russian Federation.

The fruits subject to sanctions have been destroyed, in accordance with the Decree of the President of the Russian Federation, as reported by the PR service of the Tomsk customs. The boxes containing apples and pears had their labels destroyed, and a number of stickers were allegedly added confirming the “Russian” origin of the fruit.

However, during the inspection of the 14.105 tonnes of apples and 5,376 tonnes of pears, employees of the Rosselkhoznadzor found that “part of the packaging still contained labels indicating the the true country of origin of the apples was Poland and that of the pears was Belgium,” said the statement.

Russia remained biggest apple importer in 2015

Last year, 2015, more than 160 countries together imported 6.6 billion MT of fresh apples, up 7% on the previous year. Despite its ban on produce from Western countries, Russia remained the largest importer with 880,000 MT, followed by transit country Belarus, importing 730,000 MT.

Imports in the EU declined further by 11% to a low of 435,000 MT. The US became a small importer of 153,000 MT, down 26%. Mexico is the fourth largest importer with 306,000 MT, up 30%, followed by Egypt, which became a stable importer of 250,000 MT over the last year.

Vietnam, Myanmar and Pakistan are the new export destinations, registering more import volumes, but entering the Indian market is more challenging as competition from local produce is strong. China, Hong Kong and South Korea like imported high quality apples more and more.

World apple production in the 2015/16 season rose slightly last season to 76.9 million MT, with higher production in China largely offset by slightly lower production in the US and the EU. Global trade was lower due to a downturn in demand from Mexico, Libya, Brazil and Russia.

China’s production continued to rise, up 2.1 million MT to 43.0 million on higher yield acreage and favourable weather. Exports surged from 400,000 MT to 1.2 million on higher exports to Asian markets, particularly Bangladesh and Thailand, as improved production practices continue to boost competitiveness. However, the US production was down by over 500,000 MT to 4.6 million due to adverse weather in all growing areas. Exports are forecast to plummet to their lowest level in 6 years, dropping 256,000 MT to 780,000 with smaller shipments to Mexico, India, and other distant destinations.

Belarus sold Russia five times more apples than it officially harvested

Russian customs officials have noted a particularly “miraculous” apple yield in Belarus, a country that managed to sell Russia five times more apples than it officially harvested.

Russian law enforcement agencies have blamed the discrepancy in 2015’s figures on forged documents used to smuggle sanctioned, European produce over the Russian-Belarusian border, the RIA Novosti agency reported.

“Goods that have been sanctioned by Russia often come to the border with fake documents declaring them as Belarusian goods,” said Russian Deputy Prosecutor General Vladimir Malinovsky.

“Some 573,000 tons of Belarusian apples and mushrooms were imported to Russia in 2015 — five times more than what was actually harvested there,” he said.

The Belarusian government announced last week that it had arrested a smuggling ring involved in bringing sanctioned goods over the Russian border.

Apples from Moldova may do harm to apple growers from Krasnodar region

Growers from Krasnodar region, South Russia, estimate the loss of 2 billion rubles due to competition with Moldovan apple suppliers until the end of the year. In the end of July, Moldovan suppliers began importing apples and plums to Russia and they are cheaper than Russian ones. Domestic producers turned for help to the Russian Ministry of Agriculture. However, experts believe that the request to ban the import is unlikely to be satisfied.

22 July, Russian Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance (Rosselkhoznadzor) allowed 43 Moldovan companies to export their produce to the Russian market, and the produce is cheaper than the Russian one. As a result, domestic production remains unclaimed. So, the price of a Russian plum fell from 12-14 rubles per 1 kg to 5-7 rubles per 1 kg.

According to the Union officials, over the past two weeks growers only from Krasnodar region lost more than 120 million rubles. And the total losses of fruit growers from Krasnodar region are estimated to be more than 2 billion rubles till the end of the year.

At the same time, growers from Krasnodar region believe that so far they have successfully contributed to import substitution program. For example, according to their data, they have increased domestic production of seedlings of fruit crops by 2.7 times, and fruit production has increased by 45.2% over the past five years.

Rosselkhoznadzor said that it would be impossible to ban the import of Moldovan plums and apples now without any risks of biological kind. In the summer of 2014, Rosselkhoznadzor banned imports of vegetables and fruits from Moldova because they did not match Russian phytosanitary requirements. In mid-2015, the import was renewed on a trial basis, and the number of companies authorized to ship products to the Russian market, is gradually increased. In March 2016, Rosselkhoznadzor temporarily suspended imports of vegetables and fruits with the Moldovan phytosanitary certificates via Belarus to the Russian market because of the suspicion of re-exports of apples and pears from the European Union.

In 2015, Moldova exported to Russia 42,000 MT of apples, according to the Federal Customs Service. The total import of apples to Russia was 890,000 MT. Domestic production was about 600 000 MT in 2015. As for plums, Moldova takes the second place – 13,000 MT, the total import of plums to Russia was 60,000 tons, while Russia produced only 6,000 -7,000 MT.