North African producers: Russia is your next food & drink market


Russia’s quest to replace EU produce in its supermarkets, and on its tables, is a global one. North African states, already solid trading partners, are well poised to fill many of the gaps left by Russia’s embargo on EU-sourced goods.

Russia’s quest to replace EU produce in its supermarkets, and on its tables, is a global one. North African states, already solid trading partners, are well poised to fill many of the gaps left by Russia’s embargo on EU-sourced goods.
 

North African produce is already familiar to Russians


Prior to the embargo, several North African states were already reliable agricultural suppliers to Russia. Egypt, for instance, enjoys healthy trade relations with Russia, made healthier by emerging gaps in the import market. Morocco is another big supplier (97% of its trade with Russia is agricultural) whose shipments are growing year-on-year.

Fruits and vegetables from North Africa have a solid reputation amongst Russian buyers. “With our partners from countries like Morocco, we are sure about their quality and taste,” Ivan Gulyaev of Russia-wide fruit and vegetable importers Tropic International told Fruitnet. “Consumers in Russia appreciate this.” As a result, some retailers are going directly to the source to get their North African goods. Lenta and Dixy, two of Russia’s biggest supermarket operators, signed direct-supply deals with a variety of Moroccan citrus exporters in 2017.

Other exporters are getting involved. Take Tunisia. According to Aziza Hatira, General Director of Tunisia’s Center for the Promotion of Exports (CEPEX), the nation is ready to redraw its trade balance with Russia, which presently swings heavily in the favour of Russian exports. Dates are Tunisia’s hottest product in Russia, covering 36% of its exports, alongside vegetables, fish and seafood, and olive oil.
 

Russia buys more North African food


Tunisia is optimistic towards Russia – and with good reason. Regionally, North African producers are sending more and more exports to the Russian market.

Egyptian exports of fresh fruit, for instance, grew 3.12% throughout the first nine months of 2017. Totalling $165.7 million, fruit alone covered 39.3% of Egypt’s Russian exports. Vegetable exports showed a dramatic upswing of 97.4% during the review period, according to Ahmed Antar, Head of Egypt’s Commercial Representation Agency, for a value of $175m. Morocco has quadrupled its tomato exports to Russia, whereas supplies of kiwis, persimmons, and apples are all skyrocketing.

Data from Morocco’s Globus, a leading trader of North African produce, says that since the embargo began, pear exports have grown five times over, kiwis about 8 times, and apples exports are a massive 35 times higher than pre-import ban volumes. Ivan Gulyaev at Tropic International reports his company can confirm these trends, telling Fruitnet: “With our age-old partners like Morocco, our trade turnover is increasing each year. We have also started looking towards countries like Tunisia, and have found good cooperation there.”

Tunisia, while not yet on a supply level equivalent to Egypt and Morocco, has experienced increased orders from Russian buyers. Export data reveals a 59.44% rise in its exports of fruits and nuts during 2016. North African states eye further Russian cooperation Tunisia is ready to expand its trade with Russia, and made several overtures towards this. In 2016, they made a big one with Tunisian Ambassador to Russia, Ali Goutali, stating future bilateral trading may use roubles instead of dollars.

A direct line from Sfax in Tunisia to Russia’s key agricultural port of Novorossiysk is in operation, making it easier for Tunisian producers’ goods to reach Russian consumers. Morocco, too, signed a bilateral relations agreement in October 2017 during Russian Prime Minister Dmity Medvedev’s North Africa tour, which promised to boost trade and get more Moroccan foodstuffs into Russia.

Negotiations between Egypt and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), of which Russia is by the far the biggest member, are underway too. If Egypt is successful in brokering a deal with this customs union, it could mean more Egyptian food making its way not only to Russia, but the CIS countries too.

North African food and drink producers are in a strong position in Russia right now. Traditional markets are banned from exporting the vast quantities of fruits, vegetables, and other in-demand products the Russian market is struggling to source. It’s in these gaps that manufacturers and growers from Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia, and the rest of North Africa, are finding the room to expand.
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