Say hello to Russia’s new biggest seafood supplier


As Russia’s import embargo shows no signs of relaxing any time soon, a tiny Atlantic archipelago has scored a big seafood supply coup. The Faroe Islands is taking over.

As Russia’s import embargo shows no signs of relaxing any time soon, a tiny Atlantic archipelago has scored a big seafood supply coup. The Faroe Islands is taking over.
 

Say hello to Russia’s new biggest seafood supplier


The Faroe Islands became the largest exporter of seafood to Russia in 2017, according to official government statistics. Norway used to hold that particular crown but, after signing international sanctions against Russia in 2014, it too became subject of the ongoing import ban. This boom in fish exports for the Faroese actually started in 2013 amid its own sanctions battle with the EU over fishing quotas.

“That created major difficulties for our economy. This was when Russia came to the rescue and greatly increased purchases with us,” Foreign and Trade Minister Poul Michelsen told Reuters in an interview. “It’s a really strange situation when such a big market is emptied of salmon overnight just as we’re holding lots of salmon that we want to sell,” said Faroese seafood company Bakkafrost. “If you want fresh salmon, there aren’t that many alternatives.”

Despite technically being part of the Kingdom of Denmark, the Faroe Islands is not an EU member, and thus unaffected by Russia’s embargo on EU-sourced seafood. It has complete autonomy when it comes to setting up trade deals. As such, it’s free to export to Russia. And export it does. Since 2016, when volumes really began to pick up in earnest, the Islands’ economy has received a 7% growth spurt.

Now, the Faroe Islands is looking at entering into a free trade agreement with Russia in 2019. An agreement will also hopefully be reached with Russia’s other partners in the EEU. "Thereby our exports of fish to Russia which now amount to roughly 2.4 billion Danish crowns ($380 million) a year would be formalised, allowing us to maintain this level for a longer period,” Mr Michelsen told Reuters.

reviously, 80% of Faroese fish and seafood exports were destined for the European Union. Now, just 43% goes there, with Russia taking a 29% chunk of total exports. Thanks to sanctions, the Faroe Islands overtook Chile as Russia’s chief supplier of seafood products in 2017. Russia’s seafood import market is worth $1.2bl a year.
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