After Moscow imposed retaliatory sanctions on Norway and Iceland on 13 August, there is almost no place left in Europe wherefrom can be imported certain types of fish products. In the North Atlantic, these are currently only two of Denmark’s autonomous territories – Greenland and the Faroe Islands. However, there are only advantages for them in getting rid of the European competitors.
On 20 August, the Danish newspaper Belingske published an article about Faroese fish exports in the first half of the year. “Whilst the European Union is suffering from the Russian boycott, Faroese fishermen will capture the Russian market,” it starts off. Its authors refer to the numbers which indicated that if in all of 2014 the Faroe Islands exported 63 thousand tonnes of fish to Russia, in the first half of 2015 it had already exported 50 thousand.
Danish analysts and Faroe Island industry representatives interviewed by the publication did not hide their optimism for at least the short-term. Because of the new Russian counter-sanctions, the Faroe Islands have gotten rid of their last major competitors in Europe – Iceland and Norway. As Berlingske notes, the Faroe Islands are now the second largest supplier of fish to Russia, which in turn is the largest buyer.
The Russian Agriculture Minister Alexander Tkachev also mentioned the fact that the islands are becoming an important region from whence deliveries will come in an interview with Rossiyskaya Gazeta. “Those flows which once came to us through Iceland can now be redirected, for instance, through the Faroe Islands,” he said.
However, the Faroe Island’s official representative in Moscow, Bjørn Kunoy, disagrees that the trade records were an outcome of the “sanctions war” specifically. He stated in an interview with Europe Insight that the reasons for the increasing exports to Russia, part of a long-term tendency, are economic in nature. “The increase occurred in particular during the summer/autumn 2013 upon a commercial embargo of fish products by the EU, due to which the Faroese producers needed to find new markets to export their fish products,” says Bjørn Kunoy.
In August 2013 the European Union imposed restrictive economic measures against the Faroe Islands over the herring quota. The Faroese government called this step illegal and counterproductive.
Europe Insight was able to obtain similar data about the structure of exports to Russia from the Faroe Islands Statistical Service. The export of fish to Russia in the first half of 2015 in comparison with the same time period in 2014 has more than doubled – 18.6 to 49.7 thousand tonnes. Moreover, the dynamics were even higher for individual products. Salmon exports soared in comparison with last year from 0.9 to 9.9 thousand tonnes; white halibut from zero to 26 tonnes; herring from 9.6 to 18.5 thousand tonnes; and mackerel from 2.9 to 10 thousand tonnes.
An analysis of the data for the last five years shows that the steady growth of exports to Russia actually did begin in the second half of 2013, right after the EU decision. The outcome was that in 2013 Russia became the largest consumer of Faroese production. However, if at that time the growth was ensured primarily by supplies of herring and mackerel, in 2015 the list boasts greater diversity; for example export volumes of capelin, blue whiting and salmon rose significantly.
In terms of value, in the first half of the year, fish exports to Russia totalled 722.5m krone (€96.8m). In comparison with the first half of the previous year, the amount has risen 4.6 times over. Fish exports to Russia comprised 24.3% of the export revenues of the Faroe Islands.