Russia’s authorities are reportedly discussing abolishing import duties on pork and beef to tame the upward price rally on the domestic red meat market.
Russia’s Economy Development Ministry and Agriculture Ministry have preliminary plans to allow duty-free import of 200,000 tonnes of beef in 2022 and 100,000 tonnes of pork in the first half of 2022, the Russian newspaper Vedomosti reported, citing several sources in the government.
“This measure is designed to become part of a complex solution aimed at stabilising the domestic prices for products of social importance,” a source told to the newspaper, adding that the duty-free import would be allowed under the condition that the delivered pork and beef would undergo some processing at the Russian territory before hitting grocery shelves.
Prior to 2020, Russia allowed duty-free pork imports of 430,000 tonnes per year under an agreement with the World Trade Organization (WTO). Last year, the duty-free imports were cancelled, with all imported pork being subjected to a 25% duty. The Russian National Meat Association (NMA) estimated that Russia imported only 3,800 tonnes of pork in 2020, which was the lowest figure ever.
Since December of 2020, due to animal diseases, including ASF, the meat supply on the Russian market has narrowed, explained Ekaterina Luchkina, executive director of the Russian Meat Processors Association.
The duty-free imports are being called for to increase the supply and meet the demand, she said, adding that eventually, this measure would stabilise pig prices. In January-September of 2020, the average price of pig meat in half carcasses in Russia reached 178 roubles ($ 2.40) per kg, compared to 145 roubles ($ 2.00) in the same period of 2019.
In retail, the price of boneless meat reached 388 roubles ($ 5.50) per kg, which was around 10% higher than in the previous year, according to official statistical data. Russia culled over half a million head of pigs in several major ASF outbreaks this winter.
Yuri Kovalev, general director of the Russian Union of Pork Producers, said that this year pork production in Russia would remain at the 2020 level of 4.3 million tonnes. Earlier forecasts envisaged growth by 5% compared to the previous year, but ASF and an abnormal heatwave during the 2021 summer hampered production in several regions.
In 2022 the production is likely to grow by 350,000 to 400,000 tonnes. Kovalev said that, those factors, in combination with duty-free imports, are expected to push domestic prices down.