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New Russian import restrictions hit the pet food market



new russian import restrictions hit the pet food market

Import restrictions on pet food from the US, Spain and most recently Germany are likely to endanger the lives of thousands of Russian pets and spark a wave of bankruptcies among local retailers, the Russian zoobusiness union said in a May 31 statement to Russia’s Ministry of Economic Development.

Last year, Russia gradually banned the import of pet food from Western countries, citing GMO fears. In 2020, the Russian veterinary supervisor Rosselhoznadzor blocked the way to the Russian pet food market for the Netherlands and in early 2021 for the USA and Spain.

On May 18, Rosselhoznadzor introduced a similar import ban on pet food from Germany and Lithuania. In each case, the restrictions were reportedly put in place after a routine inspection revealed unregistered GMO components in a batch of shipped products.

The ban appeared to be particularly painful for Russian pet owners in Germany, as the country has traditionally been one of the largest pet food suppliers on the Russian market and has increased deliveries in recent months and in some cases replaced the products of US and Spanish companies.

Further animal feed bans in the pipeline?

According to the Russian zoobusiness union, Rosselhoznadzor has apparently changed its handling of GMOs in imported pet food. In previous years, the Veterinary Office only banned certain companies that allegedly commit violations, but now the delivery of products with GMO components from the country of origin is completely banned, said Kirill Dmitriev, chairman of the union.

“It can be assumed that most western countries, where the GMO rules differ from those in Russia, will soon be banned from exporting their pet food to our market,” commented a source from the Russian pet food industry.

Russian law does not separate pet food from feed, so any restrictions put in place when a feed additive violation is found for livestock farming immediately extends to pet food, Dmitriev said, adding that in most cases, GMO components are indeed present are found in the feed.

According to Rosselhoznadzor, almost 1,000 pet food companies are currently authorized to export their products to Russia. The largest supplier markets are now France, Georgia, Italy, Great Britain, Hungary and Azerbaijan.

Huge economic losses expected

The new restrictions on animal feed imports from Germany are expected to trigger a wave of bankruptcies among 12,000 Russian retailers, 3,000 veterinary clinics and 130 animal feed importers, the zoobusiness union warned.

In 2020, the total sales of pet food in the Russian market increased by 10% to 200 billion rubles ($ 2.8 billion). Imported pet food accounted for 15% of total sales, around $ 300-400 million, with nearly all imports coming from the European Union, the United States, and Canada, and only a small portion from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) region.

“Russia does not have its own production of high-quality, professional pet foods, those with natural meat and holistic-class pet foods, as well as dietary pet foods for animals with health problems and medicinal foods,” said Dmitriev.

The import restrictions will not bring any benefit to Russian pet food manufacturers as it is unlikely that premium pet food will be replaced domestically in the foreseeable future. On the other hand, there is likely to be an upward rally in the market, an increase in smuggling and mass bankruptcies, added Dmitriev.

Already seen food shortages

In the premium pet food segment, the dependence on imported goods is strong and the prohibited deliveries cannot be replaced, said Georgy Chkareuly, general director of the large Russian pet food retailer Beethoven, quoted by the Russian agency Business Consulting.

“Importers buy pet food six months or several months in advance at best, so a number of products are already in short supply,” said Chkarueli. “Problems also arise from the fact that not only finished pet food but also raw materials of foreign origin are prohibited for import. There are a few local companies in Russia that produce professional, high-meat pet foods and this factor also affects prices, ”he added.

Vorotnikov is a Russia-based journalist who covers the pet and feed market.

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