MOSCOW-- Russia continues to be an important market for South African fresh produce, according to the Fresh Produce Exporters' Forum (FPEF), an industry grouping.

Russia continues to be an important market for us, as 10 per cent out of the 2.7 million tonnes of fresh fruit exported from South Africa goes to Russia, said the forum's chief executive officer, Anton Kruger, here Wednesday.

Kruger is part of the Department of Trade and Industry (dti) delegation participating in the World Food Moscow trade fair, which is being held in the Russian capital this week.

The dti-led delegation of business people forms part of the department's efforts to promote South Africa's agro-processing industry in order to consolidate and establish market presence of local goods in Russia.

Kruger said the South African pavilion at the fair adds value for the FPEF, which is a voluntary, non-profit organization with more than 130 members, who account for about 90 per cent of fresh produce exported from South Africa.

Kruger, who also represents the Export Council for the Fresh Produce Industry in South Africa, said since 2017, they have seen a steady export growth in pears, apples and table grapes, although the bulk of exports is still citrus.

He said the council is engaging with the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and is addressing the labelling issue. This follows the decision by the Euro Agent Commission to introduce new labelling requirements. The decision added a lot of cost and additional efforts for South Africa to export its fresh produce.

Kruger said while 10 per cent out of 2.7 million tonnes of fresh fruit exported from South Africa goes to Russian, this took a dip in 2016 to around six per cent as a result of the labelling requirements. Since 2017, however, the volumes have picked up again to 10 per cent.

We are working towards Russia accepting South Africa's electronic digital bar-coded certificates, which is what we are aiming for for our members. There will be another meeting with the Russian Custom Authority to address that.

He also noted that there is potential for South African grown avocados to be exported to Russia. We noticed that there is a big opportunity for us to introduce avocados and test the Russian market, said Kruger.

South Africa's exports to Russia increased from 4.1 billion Rand (about 280 million US dollars) in 2016 to more than 4.7 billion Rand in 2017. Major South African exports include edible fruits and nuts, manganese ores, products of iron and steel, beverages, spirits and vinegar, vehicles, electrical machinery and equipment.

The annual World Food Moscow fair last year hosted 1,433 exhibitors from 65 countries specialising in food and beverage products, with 78 per cent of the exhibitors reporting that they had return of investment from exhibiting at the show.

The fair, which opened on Monday, will end on Thursday.


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