South African companies have been urged to deepen their relations with their Russian counterparts, given the demand for South African food products in the European country.
"The Russian market is open for more South African food products. There is a big demand for South African products here. Like anywhere in the world, South African companies need to up their ante with regards to their marketing efforts," said Mikhail Fateev, who is head of Food and Agriculture at the Russia-South Africa Business Council.
Fateev was speaking on the side-lines of the annual World Food Moscow International Exhibition which started in the Russian capital on Tuesday.
The business council was established over a decade ago with the aim of working with the governments of the two countries to increase trade and investment between South Africa and Russia.
Its main purpose is to bring to the attention of the two governments, hurdles and blockages that could hinder the efforts of the private sector from the two countries to do business in either country.
It also serves as a platform to facilitate interaction between the business communities of South Africa and Russia.
South African companies are participating in the exhibition through the Department of Trade and Industry (dti). Over 30 local companies are partaking in the popular foods and drinks international exhibition through the dti's Export Marketing and Investment Assistance (EMIA) scheme.
The scheme aims to develop export markets for locally manufactured products and services, as well as to recruit new foreign direct investment into South Africa.
Fateev encouraged South African companies to do more in order to penetrate the Russian market.
"It will never be sufficient for them to come only for the World Food Moscow and expect to successfully penetrate the market or return home with loads of deals. They need to work on the market over time. They need to establish relations with the right people here and their rate of success will increase," said Fateev.
He adds that about 35% of the fruits imported into Russia are from South Africa and there is a huge opportunity to increase the volume.
"Just a few days ago there was 100% shortage of grapes in Russia and the containers that brought the grapes here today were from South Africa. This shows that there are opportunities to supply the Russian market are unlimited but it is for the South African companies to grab them and exploit them to their advantage," he said.
South African Foreign Economic Representative in Russia, Moloko Leshaba said the exhibition has proven to be a vital platform to expand the portfolio of South African exports of agro-processing sector.
"This trade fair continues to be an important gateway for introducing new products into the Russian market from South Africa. The continued presence of South Africa at the exhibition reinforce South Africa's image as a reliable supplier of choice for Russian importers," said Leshaba.
The trade fair will conclude on Friday.