Russia May Become A Net Grain Importer By 2012

Russia is the largest country in the world, covering 17,075,400 square kilometers, from the Bering Sea twenty kilometers from Alaska, to the Baltic Sea in Europe. This emerging economy has an insatiable appetite for western meat, as well as meat technology and equipment

Whilst little was known about the old Soviet Union, which included all countries east of Germany, even less is known about modern day Russia and its 142 million population. This is a nation that is debt free, oil rich and eager to do business, Moscow the capital is the most expensive city in the world. There are more billionaires residing in Moscow than in London or New York.

The majority of the European supermarket chains are now operating in Moscow, which has a population of 12 million and in the second city St Petersburg, whose population is around 5 million. McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut and Starbucks can be found on every corner, along side the showrooms for Rolls Royce, Bentley and Porsche, Russia is the worlds largest buyer of all three makes of car.

The Soviet Union from the end of the second world war until 1991, controlled its "satellite countries" of Poland, Hungary, Romania and the former Yugoslavia, which are the best beef producing countries in eastern Europe, with a combined cattle herd of 125 million cattle. In the Soviet days these countries exported prime beef to western Europe, with ample supplies left over for the domestic market. Yugoslav and Romanian beef was considered the best in the world, suckled on small farms and hand fed like family pets.

Since 1991 and the fall of the Soviet bloc, when independence came for the satellite countries, Russia turned to South America for its beef imports and more recently Australia. The United States, Denmark and Germany catered for poultry and pork supplies. The previously mentioned satellite countries, turned to the west and now are members of the European Union, restricting them from exporting meat to Russia.

The cattle herd in Russia today is 25 million head , whilst the nations total meat requirements are 7.5 million tonnes. Russians consume 50 kilos of meat per capita, a figure that is increasing at extraordinary rates. Projections are that by 2012, Russia will consume 10 million tonnes of meat per year. Domestic production of meat currently provides 4.7 million tonnes, leaving a shortfall of 2.8 million tonnes to be imported, making Russia the worlds largest meat importer.

Traditionally beef and pork are the most popular meats, along with many varieties of sausages, eaten cold in summer and hot in winter often in broth or stew. Poultry consumption has tripled in the last fifteen years, with imports now being double those of pork. The emergence of a wealthy middle class with high disposable incomes, has seen a high restaurant culture and the demand for more delicacies, in primal cuts of imported beef.

Australia has pioneered a lucrative trade in kangaroo meat, with the Far East of Russia in the frozen parts of Siberia, Kamchatka and Vladivostok, where the diet was previously reindeer and horse meat, mainly used in broth because of the cold artic temperatures. The plants in the Far East, have readily adapted to the use of kangaroo meat in sausages, salami and for general retail trade as stewing meat, replacing the need for reindeer meat. This trade has been very beneficial to Australia and for Russia who could never obtain sufficient quantities of reindeer meat. Australia are the main suppliers of horse meat to Russia followed by Argentina. Russia is the worlds largest importer of horse meat.

Russia plans to be self sufficient, in the production of pork and poultry within the next five years, however beef production is not expected to catch up with demand for at least fifteen years.

This rapid expansion in meat production will consume vast quantities of grain, quickly absorbing the nation's exportable surplus and possibly turning it into a net importer by 2012.