The Packer’s National Editor Tom Karst on Aug. 21 chatted with Ksenia Evdokimova, director of St. Petersburg, Russia-based CrispConsulting. Read the entire chat on the Fresh Talk blog.
1:31 p.m. Tom Karst: What is the mood of the consumer right now in Russia?
1:33 p.m. Ksenia Evdokimova: What we see from fruit perspective Russian consumers are doing quite good these days. Within the first 6 months of 2011, volume of fruit imports grew for most of the commodities.
1:34 p.m. Karst: Yes, it seems apple and pear sales are good into Russia?
1:35 p.m. Evdokimova: I was recently looking into citrus stats and found out that the growth was 53% compared to 2009. At the same time, in 2009 drop was not that dramatic. So, the market has recovered and at the same time increased significantly. Apples and pears in the same manner, (although at a) lower pace so far.
1:36 p.m. Karst: What is the supermarket evolution in Russia? Do you see companies investing in building new modern supermarkets, or is it mainly updating old stores?
1:38 p.m. Evdokimova: Most of the current retail growth is coming from discounters. These guys use both old and new facilities, depending on availability and costs. At the same time, hypermarkets are certainly an important player in bigger Russian cities and these outlets are brand new.
1:39 p.m. Karst: Ksenia, what produce groups do you represent now in Russia?
1:40 p.m. Evdokimova: We have a pleasure to work with California Table Grape Commission, Pear Bureau NW, US Apple Export Council and since recently with Washington Apple Commission. USA fruits started to enter Western Russia relatively recently and we have been with the industry almost since the beginning.
1:42 p.m. Karst: How do you see the market changing in the next three to five years? I’m sure there is quite a bit of competition in the market. What are the biggest challenges going forward for the U.S. exporters to capture a larger slice of the business?
1:44 p.m. Evdokimova: Distance between our countries is one of the strongest obstacles that has always existed and will continue to affect the business. As I mentioned earlier, overall fruit import volumes are growing and other commodities (meat, fish ...) grow as well. Logistics is not getting easier when everyone is trying to get into the country via one sole port, The Port of St. Petersburg.
1:45 p.m. Karst: True ... a bottleneck develops!
1:46 p.m. Evdokimova: Competition is another challenge for us. I think that many countries have learned from the U.S. how important marketing is and now programs are developed to support agriculture. In Russia we see this coming from Chileans, Italians and more.