Why 2020 and the coronavirus is a good combination to enter the citrus fruit market in Russia.

In early 2020, I published a post informing you that on January 1, 2020, Russia introduced a ban on import of all aquaculture products from China. For those who are interested, I give a link to this post at the end of this article.

What’s more, on January 1, 2020, Russia imposed another ban on products from China. It was a ban on import of all citrus fruits grown in China. As usual in Russia, this measure was called temporary, but it was not said how long this ban would last. Based on my experience I can say that such bans usually last from 6-8 months to several years.

Why didn’t I write about this at the start of the year? I wanted to see the reaction of both global suppliers and Russian food market. I did not see any panic in Russia, and I did not see that global suppliers of citrus fruits knew that a serious competitor had disappeared.

So, Russia has introduced this ban on the supply of citrus fruits from China, and what was their market share? I’ll show you the statistics of the Russian customs.

As you see in the photo, these are statistics on the supply of all citrus fruits from China to Russia for the entire 2019. Unfortunately, these statistics are only in Russian, but I will comment on the most important figures.

For the whole year of 2019, 193,840 tons (or 193,840,000 kg) were delivered from China to Russia. It is up to you to decide whether it is a lot or a little.
As a buyer, I can say that the main citrus fruits that China supplied to Russia were oranges, tangerines, lemons and grapefruits.

So now someone will get this volume because oranges and lemons are not grown industrially in Russia, only in small quantities in the Black Sea region. Growing citrus fruits was never an interesting or promising business in Russia. Due to the cold climate you can easily lose the entire harvest.

How much money can you earn if you supply citrus to Russia instead of China? According to the same statistics from the Russian customs service, 193,840 tons of citrus fruits for 2019 were declared at customs in the amount of $161,523,662.

Why did I also indicate the coronavirus in the title of this post? I am writing this post in early March 2020 and the coronavirus continues to affect the world, which greatly influenced the prices of all other fruits and vegetables from China.

They do not talk about this officially anywhere, but I know for sure that at the beginning of the year in Russian cities bordering with China tomatoes cost 90 rubles per kg, but with the onset of the coronavirus epidemic, somewhere in late January or early February, tomatoes from China cost 400 rubles. And by the beginning of March they simply disappeared.

Buyers from Russia, wholesalers and distributors do not want to buy fresh fruits or vegetables from China. It is not that they are afraid of the coronavirus, but they do not want to undergo the checks in Russia because of these fruits and vegetables. Everyone wants to do business, and does not want to solve problems with government inspectors.

Of course, Russia borders with many countries due to its size, but China is the main supplier of fruits and vegetables to Russia. The reason here is very simple – Chinese food is very cheap. This is the only advantage of fruits and vegetables from China. However, price is not the most important thing for the Russian market.

In modern Russia, customers know that fruits and vegetables from China do not taste good and are grown with nitrates and pesticides. No other food products have such a bad reputation as the Chinese ones.

No one in Russia has ever heard that tangerines or oranges from Turkey, Morocco or Egypt are not tasty or pesticidal. No one will say that potatoes from Holland or apples from Serbia are grown with nitrates. On contrary, in Russia they love fruits and vegetables from these countries.

So, if you are fast enough, you can take advantage of the situation with the coronavirus. It will help you to enter the Russian market of fruits and vegetables successfully. If you grow citrus fruits, now is the time to start promotion of your food products on the Russian food market. Send your commercial offers, make discounts and offer good prices to your potential Russian clients.

The main thing is to gain a foothold in the Russian market and if your products are of high quality and taste buyers in Russia will not leave you even after the ban on supplies from China is over.

And most importantly, work honestly. In Russia, honesty of business partners, especially foreign ones, is respected. I think businessmen from China who are reading this post now understand what I mean…

Yours faithfully,
Aleksander Sinyansky
Business Adviser on the Russian Food Market

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