Food for thought for Rus­sian en­trepreneur

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - BUSINESS - By WU YONG and YUAN HUI in Ho­hhot

Anna Bary­sheva loves her job pro­mot­ing Rus­sian food to Chi­nese cus­tomers af­ter liv­ing in the coun­try for 13 years.

The 28-year-old Rus­sian grad­u­ated from Sun Yat-sen Univer­sity in Guangzhou, Guang­dong prov­ince, with an MBA and is now the gen­eral man­ager at the newly es­tab­lished FRC In­ter­na­tional Trad­ing Ltd com­pany.

Based in Shang­hai, the re­tailer im­ports Rus­sian food through the bor­der city of Manzhouli in the In­ner Mon- go­lia au­ton­o­mous re­gion.

“I thought there was a promis­ing mar­ket to ex­plore af­ter see­ing the boom in Rus­sian choco­lates, bread and soda in North­east China,” Bary­sheva said.

FRC was set-up by a group of Rus­sian busi­ness­men and em­ploys dozens of work­ers.

The re­tailer has yet to re­lease de­tailed fi­nan­cial fig­ures, but the tar­get is to hit sales worth $200 mil­lion in the next three years and stock up to 2,000 prod­ucts.

Key to the com­pany’s suc­cess has been Manzhouli, which runs along the bor­der be­tween China and Rus­sia.

The city has be­come a ma­jor trad­ing hub be­tween the two coun­tries with food prod­ucts and bev­er­ages flow­ing in.

In the neigh­bor­ing free trade zone, hun­dreds of stalls pro­vide prod­ucts such as Rus­sian flour, sun­flower seed oil, choco­lates and honey.

In­deed, data from the Chi­nese Cus­toms re­vealed that the world’s sec­ond largest econ­omy bought food and bev­er­age goods worth more than $1.13 bil­lion from Rus­sia last year.

This was an in­crease of 22 per­cent com­pared to 2015 as China be­came the largest for­eign buyer of Rus­sian food.

A fa­vor­able ru­ble and yuan ex­change rate also made Rus­sian del­i­ca­cies rel­a­tively cheap.

“Rus­sian food is high qual­ity but costs less com­pared with Euro­pean prod­ucts,” said Cheng Xiao­man, a Shenyang housewife.

She bought a box of Ti­ramisu cakes last winter and has just or­dered choco­lates and sugar.

Pop­u­lar shop­ping items are corn flakes, sand­wich waf­fles, sun­flower seeds, jams and

baby food, ac­cord­ing to Bary­sheva at FRC

“The key chal­lenge is to set up sales chan­nels and in­crease mar­ket share now,” she said.

Apart from the com­pet­i­tive ru­ble, close co­op­er­a­tion be­tween China and Rus­sia has pro­vided a boost to the food sec­tor.

In March, a trade agree­ment opened the door for Rus­sian agri­cul­tural pro­duce, while the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive is likely to ex­pand im­ports in the fu­ture.

As for Bary­sheva at FRC, she has set up an e-com­merce plat­form, Open Rus­sian Doll, to cater for more cus­tomers and clients on­line.

“This will help boost sales and bring down lo­gis­tics

costs,” she said, adding that she hopes to wheel out her own brands in the fu­ture.

Steven Ding, sales man­ager at FRC, is just as bullish about the com­pany’s long-term prospects af­ter sign­ing up more than 25 large su­per­mar­kets.

“North China is more fa­mil­iar with Rus­sia food,” he said. “And there is still big growth in the south.

“We ex­pect more con­sumers will choose our prod­ucts in the fu­ture,” Ding added.

Rus­sian food is high qual­ity but costs less com­pared with Euro­pean prod­ucts.” Cheng Xiao­man, a Shenyang housewife

Han Jingyan con­trib­uted to this story.

Con­tact the writ­ers at wuy­ong@chi­nadaily.com.cn and yuan­hui@chi­nadaily.com.cn

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Work­ers on pro­duc­tion lines at an Er­dos Group’s fac­tory in Or­dos.

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