Knife and refrigerator
The new quota allocation mechanism should eventually reduce the prices of fish on domestic shelves. You can, of course, nod at retail chains and their cheating, but the fact remains: under the previous system, linking the cost of fish to foreign currency pulls Russian fish processing to the bottom.
It’s no secret that more than half of the fish on our shelves is a product that has undergone minimal processing. If beheading, evisceration and freezing can be considered as such at all. And this is not surprising. Less operations means less price. There is no need for modern cutting lines or innovative equipment on ships. You don’t need anything at all, except a knife and a refrigerator. And so the headless frozen fish with ice piled on the shelves became a symbol of our fish processing policy.
The question is, can it be different when Russian fish companies receive more than 70% of their income by selling clean raw materials abroad? It is from there that the fillet of the “second freshness” returns to us, the already cut “frozen” and other processed products that can be made with us. On some “crab sticks” foreign suppliers have earned billions in Russia. Why can’t we make surimi mince, so popular all over the world, or healthy and delicious seaweed chips?
The answer is simple: our fish processing industry does not have enough money to buy imported equipment and even more so to develop and implement modern processing technologies. The number of Russian enterprises processing fish according to world standards can be counted on the fingers of both hands. But there will be no money if you send most of the products abroad in the form of raw materials. And there is only one way out: we need to increase supplies to the Russian coast. This will load fish processing and make fish more accessible to the population.
For example, as Sergey Makhotin, CEO of Sevros, Deputy Chairman of the Association of Coastal Fishermen and Farms of the Murmansk Region, says, there is a clear trend in the region. When additional quotas are given for coastal fishing vessels that have the ability to supply fish only to the Russian coast, prices for it immediately fall, despite any fluctuations in the dollar exchange rate.
“This was the case in December 2014, January and February 2015. The price of haddock at that moment was 140 rubles, — says Sergey Makhotin. — In 2015, coastal workers were given quotas for science and third countries — six thousand tons of haddock. They began to supply intensively to the Russian coast. The price of this very haddock has fallen from 140 to 80 rubles. This happens only at the moment when we receive additional quotas. We started receiving them with the arrival of the new leadership of Rosrybolovstvo. Before that, we received two to three thousand tons per year according to the quotas of third countries. They do not have a significant impact. And industrial fishing vessels with a high dollar rate stopped entering Murmansk altogether and handed over everything in Norway.”
ON SOME SO-CALLED CRAB STICKS, FOREIGN MANUFACTURERS HAVE EARNED BILLIONS IN RUSSIA. WHY CAN’T WE MAKE SURIMI MINCE, SO POPULAR ALL OVER THE WORLD, OR HEALTHY AND DELICIOUS SEAWEED CHIPS?
Dependence on the dollar in the domestic market generally ruins all processing or, at least, does not allow it to develop. The high exchange rate of foreign currency makes it profitable to deliver the catch in foreign ports. If the ruble exchange rate rises (as it did in 2011-2013), it becomes more profitable to import foreign products. By exporting fish at a high price, we set the same bar within the country. Sergey Makhotin believes that it is necessary to load the Murmansk fishery complex, in this case the fish will become more accessible to the population by 60, 70, and sometimes 80 rubles, and the catch will be processed in Russia. Then there is a simple mechanism: processors will have guaranteed contracts, and under them it is already possible to take bank loans for the purchase of new equipment and the construction of new production facilities.
In order to break out of the currency trap and attract fish to the Russian coast, Rosrybolovstvo is going to introduce 20 percent investment quotas. Moreover, 15% of them will be directed to the construction of modern vessels, including those that will be able to process fish directly on board. And another 5% — for the development of fish processing enterprises. This decision can be criticized, and from different positions. But the fishermen themselves say that there is no other way to make shipbuilding and fish processing profitable at the moment. In any case, no one can offer it. In a situation where the profitability of processing is about zero, few people will invest in enterprises, even modern ones.
Now various departments are coordinating exactly how to provide a quota of state support for fish processing. Alexey Osintsev, Deputy Head of the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture of the Ministry of Agriculture of the Russian Federation, said that in relation to coastal plants, it is planned to prepare projects that will be considered and selected by the newly created government commission.
“In order to select investment projects, it is necessary to develop a methodology for their evaluation and establish appropriate criteria for this selection methodology,” says Alexey Osintsev. — One of such key criteria: it is proposed to establish a sufficiently high level of investment volume, that is, over a billion rubles. Accordingly, the parameters of these projects should be taken into account in terms of conversion to the allocated volume of biological resources.”
However, for example, the Fish Union is against allocating quotas of state support for fish processing, believing that this will simply become unfair competition and industrialists, having received a quota, will earn on the cost of raw materials, since domestic prices for fish are also high.
“We need to give more quotas to those who have learned how to process, and make modern products, and supply them to the domestic market or abroad,” Sergey Gudkov, executive director of the Fish Union, is convinced. — Do not hesitate to reduce quotas for those who do not seek to develop and do not know how to work. The same applies to the tax on aquatic biological resources. It can also be differentiated.”
The state, for its part, can stimulate the demand of the population for high-quality products. There are a lot of ways to do this. The main thing is to get away from the policy of absolutely unregulated freedom, which really makes our country a raw material appendage of other states.