Apples are one of the most popular and affordable fruits in Russia and with domestic production forecast to decline, imports will rebound in the 2020/2021 MY. Many commercial pear growers are replanting their orchards to apples to take advantage of this growing demand. Russia is the second-largest importer of pears and a major importer of table grapes as local production for these two fresh fruits is insufficient to meet demand. However, imports of pears and table grapes are expected to decline as the economic crisis continues and consumer purchasing power declines.
Since 2014, Russia’s countersanctions have banned fresh apple imports from Europe and the United States. This coupled with extensive support from the Government of Russia for the care and planting of new orchards has propelled investment in horticulture in recent years. In 2019, the Government of Russia financed a 311 billion Ruble (US$ 4.2 billion) support program for Russian agriculture.
Despite all this, several factors continue to constrain the development of Russia’s horticultural sector. First and foremost, Russia’s horticultural industry still lacks productive plant material. The Ministry of Agriculture estimates that in 2018 Russia produced around 24 million plants (including 15 million seed fruit plants). At the same time, Russia imported 25 million plants in 2018 and 21 million plants during the first six months of 2019. Very few nursery farms cultivate planting material for commercial orchards, and as a result, the quality of the planting material in Russia remains inadequate in terms of yields, winter resistance, and drought and disease tolerance.
As the ruble continues to weaken, Russian horticultural producers continue to face very high costs for importing planting stock, and other related items for cultivation, such as crop protection agents, technology, and equipment. A lack of qualified agronomists is another factor holding back the industry.
The current Russian trend of eating healthy has led to greater fruit consumption. Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, more people are paying attention to their health and eating patterns are increasingly favoring natural, healthier foods. According to analysts, the demand for vegetables and fruits increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, the consumption of fruit is closely connected with household income and market prices. Russian disposable income has been declining since 2014, although there was some growth in 2018 and 2019, it is expected to drop again. In 2020, the decline in disposable income is forecast at 3 percent, according to the Ministry of Economic Development.
Full USDA report, containing information on the Russian harvest, import and consumption of apples, pear and grapes.