Will the Faroese continue to use their loophole to access the lucrative Russian market?

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When Moscow’s relationship with the West first began to enter the deep freeze in 2014, one country was set to prosper.

Following Russia’s annexation of the Crimea in 2014, and the imposition of western sanction upon the country, Moscow retaliated by imposing a series of restrictions on the import of food (including fish) from the EU, US, Canada, Norway and Iceland.

As a result of this, the Faroe Islands, which are not part of the EU, became the only source of imports for Russia of herring, mackerel and farmed salmon which until 2014, was almost entirely sourced from Norway.

Faroese salmon producing giant Bakkafrost said at the time that it expected the situation to result in its exports to Russia in increasing by three fold.

Most important market
Speaking in 2014, Regin Jacobsen, Bakkafrost CEO said, “It’s a really strange situation when such a big market is emptied of salmon overnight just as we’re holding lots of salmon that we want to sell,” continuing, “If you want fresh salmon, there aren’t that many alternatives.”

Regin Jacobsen, CEO Bakkafrost. Photo: Katrina Poulsen

Indeed, since 2014, the North Sea archipelago has more than doubled its overall exports of fish products to Russia. Increasing the country’s income from fish exports to the country from $112 million to $334 million.

Russia is now the single most important export destination for the Faroe Islands, accounting for more than 25 per cent of exports by value, with Russian buyers willing to pay a significant premium for Faroese salmon.

With renewed interest in sanctions on Russia, SalmonBusiness contacted leading Faroese salmon producers Bakkafrost and Hiddenfjord for an update on how trade with Russia was going.

No comment
This time, however, Bakkafrost CEO Regin Jacobsen was less keen to comment and has not replied to our enquiries.

Atli Gregersen. Photo: Ole Alexander Saue

Meanwhile, Hiddenfjord co-owner Atli Gregersen said, “We haven’t had any fish to send this year, and when we do have them available next month, will will be prioritising the US.”

Gregerson explained that exports to Russia had been decreasing as a percentage of sales for the company as a result of their focus on the American market.

Bakkafrost headquarters in Gyvrar, Faroe Islands. PHOTO: Bakkafrost