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China & Russia food trade: what’s on the menu?

The relationship between Russia and China is one that is likely to define the rest of the 21st century. As China is the world’s second largest economy, its influence on global trade networks is huge – not least in worldwide food supply, where Russia is also an emerging player.

Trade between the two states is set to soar – possibly as high as $80 billion by the end of 2017. 
Trade grew 21.8% during the first six months across 2017, showing a mutual, growing appetite between the two states for each other’s goods.
One commodity bringing both of these powers together is food and drink. Both nations are keen agriproduct traders, and embody massive markets for producers.

Russia is, crucially, still under embargo from the West. EU produce is off the table, meaning Russia has had to look elsewhere to source some key foodstuffs. This is where China comes in.

Russia: A $1.8 billion market for Chinese food

Over 2016, some 2 years after Russia’s food ban took place, China exported $1.8 billion worth of foodstuffs to Russia – a rise of 17.5% compared with 2015’s levels. It’s clear from these stats that Russian consumers are a key market for Chinese producers, but what are they actually importing?

According to data from the MIT Atlas of Economic Complexity, a global trade database, China’s 2016 food and drink Russian exports looked something like this:

Vegetable products (incl. non-processed fruits & vegetables) - $902 million
Foodstuffs (incl. processed fruits, vegetables, juices, sauces, seasonings, fish, & meat) - $736 million
Animal products (incl. non-processed meat & fish) - $215 million

For Chinese exporters, there is a number of a products that are moved in vast quantities throughout Russia. On the fruit and veg side, it’s mainly products that Russian agriculture currently cannot grow enough of to meet domestic demand.

For instance, citrus fruits, such as organs, mandarins, and lemons, represent $162 million in exports.
Tomatoes, which used to be supplied almost exclusively by Turkey prior to Russia’s ban on Turkish produce, are a Russian favourite, and represent $86.6 million in fresh exports for Chinese companies.
Processed tomatoes, such as canned or tinned varieties, is another $71.2 million export market.

Elsewhere, seafood is another popular product category, including processed, fresh, and frozen varieties. For instance, China collectively exported $348.2 million worth of fish and crustaceans in 2016. This is particularly noteworthy, as Russia is actually a huge supplier of seafood to China itself, so the real money lies in the bounty of the sea.

China famously is a nation of tea drinkers – and so is Russia. But, surprisingly, Russia does not acquire much of its supplies of that tasty drink from Chinese sources. Instead, the biggest drink export from China to its northern neighbour is fruit juices, of which Russia imported $55.2 million.

So for Chinese exporters looking to enter Russia’s $25 billion food import market, it looks like fish, fruits, and juices are your best options.

China replaces Turkey as the main buyer of Russian food

While Russia snaps up big volumes of Chinese foodstuffs, it’s southern trading partner is also very hungry for Russian produce – and not just in bulk agricultural commodities like wheat.
In 2016, says data from Russia’s Federal Custom (FCS), China spent $1.13 billion on food from Russia – 22.1% more than in the previous period.

The main driver for Russian food in China is its rapidly rising middle class, which has a taste for international cuisines and imported goods, and has more money to spend on luxury products than their less-well off contemporaries.

Frozen fish accounted for 60% of Russian exports to China that year, totalling an impressive $530.9 million. Next on the agenda for Chinese importers was soy, sunflower, and soybean oils – essential ingredients for the Chinese food production industry. These made up 8.4%, 7.9%, and 4.1% of total Russian exports respectively.
Additionally, exports of fruit and vegetable juices tripled, peaking at $1.3 million. Wine exports grew in value 3.8 times, reaching $1.8 million, and ice cream sales grew fivefold, worth $4.2 million, according to FCS.

Mutual food trade between the pair highlights their closer growing relationship. While Russia’s food embargo remains in place, it represents a bountiful market for food exporters – particularly in the sectors highlighted earlier in this article.

And, for both Russian and Chinese suppliers and buyers, there’s one great place where they can interact: WorldFood Moscow.

WorldFood Moscow: your gateway to Russia’s food industry

WorldFood Moscow, Russia’s biggest and best food event, is the country’s key industry meeting place. In 2017, over 28,000 trade visitors from 78 Russian regions and 89 countries, met and networked with over 1,400 exhibiting companies.

82% of show visitors were ready to make purchases based on the companies they met at the show, while 74% visited exclusively to find new suppliers and partners.

Interested in getting your food and drink products huge exposure to a massive dedicated audience of buyers, importers, distributors, and more industry professionals? Be at WorldFood Moscow.

Contact us today to book your stand for 2018’s event or to learn more about the show.


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