WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — Development of the aquaculture sector in Russia is far below its potential. The current annual production is estimated at 160,000 tonnes, or 3%-4% of total fish and seafood production in Russia, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) said in a Feb. 26 report. Russia’s share of world aquaculture production is estimated at only 0.2%. Lack of government support, outdated equipment and production technologies, as well as a deficit in feed, are major constraints to further development of the sector.

Most experts believe that given the current economic environment, development of the aquaculture sector can only be done with financial support from the government. They estimate that the initial capital needed for the sector is 1.5 billion rubles, versus the 400 million ruble allocation made by the “Development of Fisheries Sector” program of the Russian government for the compensation of the costs of investment.

Experts also believe that businesses are unlikely to invest in the aquaculture sector right now because it is viewed as very risky and complex.

During the International Conference Aquaculture 2016 that took place during the ProdExpo food show in Moscow, Russia, Feb. 8 to 11, most of the speakers identified the lack of feed and raw material for aquaculture production as one of the problems constraining the further development of the aquaculture sector in Russia.

According to Vasiliy Sokolov, deputy head of FFA, production of aquaculture feed in Russia in 2015 is estimated at about 100,000 tonnes, while currently the demand for feed is 250,000 tonnes. According to the objectives stated in the federal program “On Development of the Fisheries Sector,” demand for feed will increase to between 400,000 tonnes and 450,000 tonnes by 2020.

Fifty percent of feed for aquaculture is imported. As a result of the ruble devaluation, expenses for feed increased significantly. The cost of feed accounts for 70% of aquaculture total costs of production. In addition, obsolete feed production equipment is an obstacle to efficient feed production in Russia.

Sokolov also reported that there are 40 facilities in Russia that produce feed for aquaculture. However, only a few of these facilities have been renovated. Most plants are outdated and not equipped for production of highly advanced feeds.

Traditionally, the main component for fish feed is fishmeal, but Russia produces only a small amount of fishmeal. Even though Russia does not produce enough fishmeal to meet domestic demand, they still export fishmeal to China. Additionally, current Russian fishmeal production technologies are not efficient.