RUSSIA announced at the end of June that its current import embargo has been extended until the end of 2018. Since the embargo, Russian meat imports have fallen considerably while domestic production of pork, poultry meat, beef and sheep meat is soaring.

Russia first placed an embargo on imported food products, from a number of origins, including the EU and US in August 2014, as a result of geopolitical tensions.

With the embargo being in place now for three years and set to remain for at least the next 15 months, Russia's aim to become self-sufficient, has become a necessity. In 2010 Russia launched a programme to move towards self-sufficiency in food production with the aim to become at least 80 per cent self-sufficient in key products by 2020. The programme has been updated as time has progressed and the Government has allocated funds to create a system of subsidies and direct payment to boost farm output and processing facilities. Furthermore, currently elevated import prices are expected to be positive for domestic production.

Russia's pork production is set to rise five per cent year-on-year to 4.57m tonnes for 2017, while in 2018 it is predicted to add another 3.4 per cent to reach 4.73m tonnes. The Russian pork industry is reckoned to have grown by one million tonnes since 2013. The need for imports on the other hand has decreased from 40 per cent to 10 per cent. Market analysts reckon that Russia will be around 92 per cent self-sufficient in pig meat this year, compared to 73 per cent in 2013.

The nature of the industry is also changing. Industrial pig farms collectively produced 2.46m tonnes of pork in 2015, which was a six-fold growth in comparison to 2005. The percentage of pork from small-scale and backyard farms was 70 per cent in 2005 but currently stands at around 20 per cent. Their proportion declined partly because they suffer disproportionately from the consequences of African Swine Fever (ASF).

Russian meat consumption is set to reach 75.2kg per capita this year, which corresponds to the pre-crisis level of 2013 and an increase of 2kg on 2016. Overall meat consumption in Russia has grown steadily since 2000, when it stood at 43.5kg per capita, while consumption of pork during this period has doubled to 24.7kg per capita and a projected 25.8kg per capita this year.

Pork's main competitor in the market is chicken, as Russians opt for cheaper meat due to an ongoing fall in their purchasing power. The Russian State Statistical Service has estimated that the real income of the country's citizens dropped by six per cent in 2016 compared with 2015 and by another 1.8 per cent in the period from January to May this year.

During 2016, the retail price for pork fell by eight to 10 per cent, the price for poultry remained unchanged, while the price for beef grew by four to six, according to various estimates.

Russia increased its production of chicken by 5.4 per cent between January and May this year. Currently chicken meat accounts for 49 per cent of total meat consumption in Russia, compared to 33 per cent for pork and 16 per cent for beef.

Traditionally Russian beef came from dairy cull cows - most prime beef sold and consumed in the country was imported. However, once the sanctions and restrictions on importing foods were in place there was less beef available. As a result, domestic supplies were in demand which encouraged Russian farmers to produce more beef. Aberdeen Angus bulls were imported from the US and, to start with, largely crossed with dairy cows. Since then beef cows have been imported.

Russia has also increased milk production which, as a by-product, has also supported the increase in beef production. In May this year, Russia's Agriculture Minister stated Russia wishes to build 800 new dairy farms before 2020, each designed to have a milking herd of 3,000 head. This would produce an extra five million tonnes of milk a year as well as additional beef.

In terms of sheep meat, between 2014 and 2015 Russian imports dropped by 61 per cent to 3,793 tonnes and by a further 14 per cent on the year in 2016.

In April this year plans were announced to build a 30,000-head sheep farm in Kursk Oblast region on the western border of Russia with Europe. Should this one be successful there are plans for 10 more similar farms in the region, with a meat processing plant also planned.

It looks like Russia could soon be exporting pork, beef and lamb.