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South African food in Russia

Russia’s search for new food import/export partners is truly global. Take South Africa for example. Both nations are members of the BRICS group of countries and have enjoyed a healthy trading relationship since the community’s inception. South Africa is keen to improve its Russian market share amid sanctions on Russia’s traditional food trading partners – and the food sector looks set to facilitate this expansion.

Rob Davies, South African Trade and Industry Minister, has been quoted by Sputnik news as saying: “If there are opportunities arising from the fact that others imposed sanctions on Russia and we can step in and strengthen our cooperation, we will be really happy to do that.”

So, with this co-operative spirit in mind, which foodstuffs does Russia import from South Africa and what opportunities are to be had in the Russian market for South African companies?

Sensational South African citrus

A news item from Fresh Plaza revealed that, in October 2015, South Africa became the main supplier of citrus fruits to Russia. Approximately a quarter of all oranges on the Russian market are now sourced from South Africa.

The citrus trade between the two countries has been a long and productive partnership, stretching back 20 years. Mikhail Fateev, head of the Russia-RSA Business Council, noted that during this period not a single shipment of South African fruit to Russia had been rejected on phytosanitary grounds.

The first reefer-shipment of the 2015 season carrying South African food arrived in St. Petersburg in March 2015. 4,000 tons of various fruits, including citrus, apples and pears were included in this shipment. This is typical of South African fruit shipments to Russia, showing the huge quantities Russia desires each week – and a gap to exploit for South African fruit companies.

Other fruitful South African shipments to Russia

According to Tatar Inform, South African fresh fruit imports grew by 15% over the first half of 2015. 87.6 thousand tons of produce was imported by Russia from South Africa. The total value of these shipments stood at $73.75 million – an increase of 8% compared with the previous year.

Canned fruit, vegetable and nut imports from South Africa amounted to 8.4 thousand tons during this period with a total value of $6.9 million. Groundnuts are another market that could look healthy. Grain SA, an association of South African grain farmers, identified Russia as one of the key markets for their produce. In 2014, Russia spent $110 million on importing groundnuts.

South African produce offers a taste of the exotic for Russian consumers

As part of a commitment to supply over $200 million of agri-products to Russia, South Africa is looking to export more exotic fare. The Klein Karoo Company began exporting ostrich meat to the Russian market in 2015. Dempsey Rice, Klein Karoo’s sales representative, stated that, after their initial operations, the company has shipped 72 tons of meat to clients in Moscow, and new partners are ready to make orders.

While ostrich meat appears to be taking flight, South Africa is still working to obtain permission from Russian authorities to begin supplying more conventional meats. Once permission has been attained, South African companies will be able to begin exporting beef, pork and lamb to Russia.

Bounty of the sea – South African seafood in Russia

One notable market that has opened for the first time in nearly two decades due to the various trade sanctions is seafood. In November 2014, Russia gave 12 South African firms the rights to supply the Russian market with canned and frozen fish.

"Since the late 1990s, this is the first time South African fish will be exported to Russia on a commercial basis," Felix Ratheb, chief executive of the Cape Town-based Sea Harvest, said at the time in an interview with Reuters.

Ratheb said Sea-Harvest’s first exports to Russia were expected in early 2015 and would begin at about 500 tonnes with a worth of between $2 million and $3.5 million.

South African wine exports to Russia

Wine is another key area of export for South Africa. According to a report from Russia Beyond the Headlines, South African products accounted for 1.15% of all of Russia’s wine imports in 2014.

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Tony Higginson

International Sales Director


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