Russia / Ukraine Conflict: Implications for UK seafood market

11 March, 2022

Below is an overview of the potential implications of global food-related trade sanctions against Russia, on the UK seafood supply chain.

Seafood trade and production:

The global whitefish supply chain has been under significant pressure recently due to Covid and Brexit, so a ban on Russian imports will further impact supply, particularly of frozen lines.

Russia accounts for over 40% of global whitefish production. It is the primary producer of Alaskan pollock (49%) and produces over 30% of the global Atlantic cod supply and 25% of haddock.

The UK supply chain is anecdotally estimated to rely on Russian product for at least 20% of their whitefish supplies – although it’s been suggested that this is an underestimate.

Implications of potential trade sanctions:

There has been no indication, from the UK, EU or globally, that food related sanctions will be applied. If sanctions are introduced, a key factor will be whether sanctions apply to Russian originating product or exports from Russia.

While the UK does not rely on Russia for fresh lines, a huge proportion goes to China for processing – depending on the degree of processing the fish could acquire Chinese status when it is imported to the UK but catch certificates will still demonstrate the origin of the fish as being Russian. This is likely to have an impact on frozen lines in the medium to long term.

It is inevitable that prices will rise on the back of reduced availability. Switching to other species will simply transfer demand (and therefore price increases) to other lines.

The above challenges will only become an issue if trade sanctions are imposed – this is not yet the case.

Secondary ingredient production disruption:

  • Fish Feed: Ukraine is a major producer of soybean meal and oil, key ingredients in the production of fish feed. A lack of production will see increases in the price of fish meal and therefore a likely increase in the cost of farmed fish.
  • Wheat: Russia and Ukraine combined produce a quarter of global wheat supplies, any disruption to this supply will impact coated product production (e.g. breaded or battered fish).
  • Sunflower Oil: Ukraine is the majority producer of sunflower oil and while there are other vegetable oils available, severe disruption to market, price increases and production challenges are predicted as businesses adjust production lines to reflect alternative products. This is also likely to impact whitefish value as well as increasing the price of canned fish.

Energy/fuel prices:

We have already seen massive increases in fuel and energy prices which are impacting the entire supply chain. Russia is one of the world’s largest oil producers. European refineries rely heavily on Russia for crude oil supplies. It is also the largest supplier of natural gas to Europe. Current high prices are expected to get worse and this will have severe implications for both processing and transporting costs throughout the supply chain.

Our team can provide advice and assistance with your fish and seafood purchasing – please get in touch if you’d like our support.


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