Surimi Sector Shift: Russian Cod Industry Eyes Asia Amid Export Challenges


The landscape of the Russian cod industry is undergoing a significant transformation. With exports to traditional markets in Europe and America becoming increasingly challenging, industry giants are shifting their focus towards producing fish mince, specifically surimi, with an eye on expanding their footprint in the Asian market over the next five years.

A Strategic Pivot to Surimi Production

This strategic shift is not without its hurdles. Russian suppliers, in their efforts to penetrate the Chinese market, have encountered several technical issues, primarily concerning the presence of black impurities in their fish mince products. These impurities, stemming from the cod’s abdominal skin layer, pose no food safety risks but present a quality concern that Russian producers are keen to address to meet the expectations of Chinese buyers.

Overcoming Technical Challenges in Surimi Processing

The transition to surimi production has necessitated a learning curve for Chinese factories, particularly those accustomed to processing freshwater fish paste. Savily Karpukhin, Deputy General Manager of the Russian Fisheries Corporation (RFC), has been at the forefront of guiding Chinese clients through this adjustment process. Through educational initiatives, including video tutorials and hands-on demonstrations, RFC is working diligently to impart the necessary technical expertise to ensure the seamless removal of these impurities.

Market Adaptations and Growth Prospects

Despite these efforts, the acceptance and integration of cod-based surimi into the Chinese market have been slower than anticipated. The RFC remains optimistic about the potential for growth, projecting a significant increase in Russian surimi exports in the coming years. This optimism is underpinned by the strategic delivery of the fourth fishing and processing vessel, which, due to regulatory constraints, is dedicated to surimi production for the Asian market.

The dynamics of surimi demand extend beyond China, with Japan maintaining its position as the world’s largest surimi importer. The RFC anticipates stable sales in the Japanese market, complemented by growing domestic demand within Russia itself. This internal market expansion is highlighted by the successful replacement of tropical fish mince with cod, marking a notable achievement in the diversification of Russia’s seafood industry.

The broader narrative of the Russian cod industry’s pivot to surimi underscores a complex interplay of regulatory challenges, technical hurdles, and market opportunities. As the industry continues to navigate these waters, the focus on education, technical innovation, and strategic market positioning will be crucial in realizing the full potential of surimi as a cornerstone of Russia’s aquaculture exports.

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