Head of Rosselkhoznadzor Sergey Dankvert told TASS during SPIEF-2022 about what is happening with the export and import of products in the new external economic conditions, at what stage is the development of a vaccine against African swine fever, and also about the size of the animal feed market in Russia.
— Sergey Alekseevich, since we last talked, the situation in the world has changed a lot. In this regard, I would like to ask you what is happening with the supply of imported products in the conditions of the changed geopolitical situation? How are their routes changing?
- In general, there are certain difficulties that everyone is talking about. These are, first of all, technical problems in the field of maritime transport, which have arisen in connection with the complicated geopolitical situation. Of course, we can say that logistics has changed, but at the same time, there has not been a catastrophic decrease in supplies. For example, meat imports this year decreased by only 7-8% compared to last year. Moreover, this may be due to both the seasonality of supplies and the fact that Russia's own production of poultry and pork is growing. The same situation is with vegetables and fruits. Everyone was worried that there would be difficulties with the supply of bananas to Russia, but meanwhile, according to statistics, their imports increased by 3% compared to last year. Therefore, I will say it again: rumors that imports have stopped are greatly exaggerated.
— And how is the situation with exports? Have the conditions of supply become more complicated and what is happening with the export logistics chains?
- The situation with exports is rather interesting. For example, the volume of meat supplies abroad has increased by almost half a year by 50 thousand tons. Shipments of beef, pork, poultry meat and finished meat products to foreign markets are growing. This, of course, is associated with an increase in production. It is difficult to correctly assess grain exports in the middle of the calendar year, but the volume of shipments in 2022 practically remained at the level of last year, taking into account the quota system. At the same time, the supply of grain processing products even increased, for example, the export of flour quadrupled. However, many exporters are waiting for a more attractive dollar exchange rate, and this is a purely financial issue, but there are no insurmountable difficulties with deliveries abroad.
— That's good. Then let's return to the issues that the Rosselkhoznadzor was originally involved in. Please tell us how the situation with the vaccine against COVID-19 in animals is now. How many doses were sold, what are the plans for further sales?
“We have developed this vaccine for the future in order to have a tool to protect animals, including domestic animals, if the virus starts causing epizootics among them. We absolutely did not plan to create a business out of this or think about how to sell more, so the number of vaccines sold is measured not in millions, but in tens of thousands.
— Were the vaccine batches sent for export?
“There were trial deliveries for export as part of the registration processes, but abroad, as in Russia, the main focus was still on eradicating the coronavirus among people. But we are convinced that time will pass and everyone will return to the problems of the spread of this disease among animals. And after some time, pet owners will come to the conclusion that it is better to vaccinate them and have a guaranteed result, thereby protecting both them and themselves.
- At what stage is the development of a vaccine against another common animal disease - African swine fever (ASF)?
- I will say this: our subordinate institutions are conducting such research and have already done a lot in this direction. I think that whoever eventually makes this vaccine will be worthy of the Nobel Prize, because this disease is already over 100 years old, and no country has yet been able to develop a vaccine. Perhaps the key to solving the problem lies in genetic engineering.
At the same time, ASF causes irreparable damage to pig production around the world, this issue is especially acute in the European Union, where more than 4 thousand foci of the disease were detected last year. It is possible that in five years the EU countries will have to abandon the export of pork and provide the domestic market with pig products through imports. As for Russia, thanks to the electronic certification system, the mechanism of regionalization of the country's territory and the compartmentalization of enterprises (determining the level of bionic security of enterprises - TASS note), we have gone far ahead of the EU. Yes, we have losses, but they can be completely calmly endured. Our pig industry is working efficiently, production is growing.
- How do you assess the epizootic situation in the world in general? How dangerous is ASF for Russia, which has spread in Europe?
- Recently, the situation in the world has become more complicated due to the spread of African swine fever, bird flu, foot-and-mouth disease and other diseases. They have found their way into parts of Europe that did not have them before, and on a large scale.
Now many countries of the world, in which foot-and-mouth disease is registered, send humanitarian aid to Ukraine. Thus, foot-and-mouth disease can be brought to Ukraine, and then, together with refugees, get into the European Union. Given that there is no FMD vaccination in Europe, the losses from the spread of this disease can be enormous. And we will see it within a year. This cannot but affect the development of agriculture both in Europe and throughout the world. But for Russia, which, as I said, is more secure thanks to timely implemented control mechanisms, the spread of the disease in Europe does not pose a particular danger.
— What are the results of import substitution in the veterinary drugs industry? What share is accounted for by domestic drugs, and what share is foreign?
- It cannot be said that our agriculture is highly dependent on some foreign veterinary drugs. In Russia, there is a tradition of using imported drugs, because it is generally believed that they are better. This is largely the merit of extensive advertising campaigns and the work of Western marketers, who have been taking our veterinarians on cruises to expensive resorts over the past 10-15 years. After such travels, our doctors began to give priority to imported vaccines.
In fact, in Russia there are analogues of almost all foreign vaccines against animal diseases. In particular, we are strong in the production of autogenous vaccines, which are developed directly during the spread of the disease, taking into account its type. I must say that the demand for Russian immunobiological preparations has increased significantly in recent years, because the Rosselkhoznadzor and domestic companies began to actively explain to veterinarians the advantage of our preparations over Western ones.
Our companies for the production of both pharmacological and immunobiological drugs are actively working, and the government is doing everything to support this industry. So far, it is dependent on some foreign components, but this is normal, everyone is dependent, including Europe and America. It just so happened that China and India are suppliers of very many pharmacological substances.
- So the task of 100% transition to domestic veterinary drugs is not currently in Russia?
— It is not always necessary to set the task of 100% import substitution. The challenge is to make your production sufficiently independent of external factors, because they are completely unpredictable. And we will achieve such a result.
- If we talk about animal feed, what is the share of the imported component in this segment? How will it change in the future?
- There are feeds for productive, agricultural, animals and feeds for non-productive, domestic animals. Food for productive animals must be high in protein and is often based on soy. We used to import a lot of soybeans, but now Russia is increasing its own production of this product every year, so the dependence on the purchase of this product in South America is gradually disappearing. As for feed additives, a certain proportion of Russian farmers continue to buy them abroad. However, again, this is a marketing issue: Western companies are able to advertise their products, while we are not doing it so successfully yet. Now we have been excluded from international integration, but statistics show that the market did not shrink. In addition, dependence on feed additives can be overcome by the use of soy,
The volume of pet food production in Russia annually is about 1.5 million tons, and imports are a maximum of 160-170 thousand tons, and this year it is less. This was mainly due to logistics and bank transfers, as well as rising prices for consumers due to the dollar that jumped at the end of the first quarter. Now the ruble has strengthened, so it is likely that imports will also grow. Overall, we estimate that no more than 10% of pet owners buy foreign pet food. Basically, these are residents of Moscow and million-plus cities. Rosselkhoznadzor, for its part, did everything to ensure that there were feed on the Russian market. In particular, we opened the possibility of supplying the necessary components for their manufacture from friendly countries, for example, from Brazil. So there is enough raw material base, the issue of transportation will be settled,
But there is another problem here, and the Rosselkhoznadzor has repeatedly spoken about it - the discrepancy between the composition of the feed stated on the label. For example, manufacturers indicate on the label that the food is made from trout and shrimp, and veterinary documents show that instead of shrimp, it contains only a peeled chitinous cover, and the head and skeleton are left from the trout. Another marketing gimmick is multifunctional, dietary foods, which cost significantly more than regular complete foods. However, after examining the certificates and conducting laboratory tests, we came to the conclusion that only skins and bones can be used in their production instead of the specified meat.
We are warning companies about this, and they are slowly but surely putting things in order. I think by the end of this year, every manufacturer that says "rabbit" on their pet food packaging will actually be putting rabbit meat in it.
- Earlier, the Rosselkhoznadzor spoke about the increasing violations in the supply of crop and livestock products from Belarus. What is the current situation?
— We are constantly in touch with our colleagues from Belarus, as well as with all representatives of the EAEU countries. We inform them of all violations found, and they themselves take action and respond. So far, we are opening more Belarusian enterprises for supplies than we are closing. But at the same time, there is no increase in trade on their part, on the contrary, the import of meat and milk from Belarus has decreased by about 5-7%. Presumably, this may be due to the closure of the borders of Belarus with Ukraine and Poland and, accordingly, a reduction in the volume of products purchased there. The vacant niches are being closed by domestic production, leaving fewer resources for export.
— The last question I wanted to ask you concerns the moratorium on business inspections. How does Rosselkhoznadzor work under these conditions and how constructive do you think this measure is?
— For more than two years, we have been proposing to abandon scheduled inspections due to their low level of effectiveness. Over the years of work, we have created a large complex of information systems integrated with each other for the traceability of all production processes, confirmation of safety and quality and product turnover. The analysis of technical platforms, including the use of analytical modules and artificial intelligence functions, raises control to a whole new level. We do not need to go to a face-to-face inspection, especially a pre-planned one, about which the entrepreneur is notified in advance, in order to find out whether he violates the law or not.
I will give a simple example. Yesterday in St. Petersburg, I went to a restaurant that sells live crabs, according to employees - Kamchatka. But we checked the documents drawn up in the "Mercury" system, and immediately found out that the restaurant did not receive live crabs. This means that the crabs were illegally harvested and used without sufficient justification, that is, without documents.
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