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Russia's imports: 2017’s top 6 building materials

Over the past few years, Russia’s construction industry has been through some turbulent times, but 2017 has shown sure signs of a rebound and recovery for the market. Despite the challenges, Russia still boasts a vast building market worth in excess of $150 billion.

While various sanctions, counter-sanctions, and the nationwide import-substitution initiative have encouraged Russian industry to start turning inwards, the sector still relies heavily on imports of key building products, particularly in the mid and high-end price points. To take one sector, office construction, imported materials are said to account for an average of 20-30% during the construction phase and 40-60% on external and internal finishes. In 2016, this reached a total of $2 billion worth of building materials.

Here are six of the most in-demand products Russia sources from abroad:


Collectively, ceramic building materials – tiles, bricks, sanitary ware, and roof tiles – are currently Russia’s largest building material import in terms of monetary value. In 2016, the country imported $688 million worth of ceramics, and over the first six months of 2017 that has increased 16% compared to the same period in 2016.
Ceramic tiles and sanitary ware, alongside most finishing materials, have remained relatively stable during the crisis as many consumers opt to renovate rather than relocate. A shift in suppliers has been the main change. Whereas high-quality Spanish and Italian tiles were previously widely accessible, they are now predominantly set in the high-end segment of finishing materials, with China stepping in to fill the gap in the low-end market. The price increases in European tiles don’t seem to have deterred Russian consumers however, who are willing to pay more for high quality and elite ceramics remain in demand. 


With imports making the lion’s share of the building and decorative stone market in Russia and consumption increasing 7-9% each year, this sector is extremely valuable for foreign suppliers. Not only is Russian stone considered poor quality, there are significant hurdles to domestic production taking off in the near future – high tax and lack of state assistance and investors. As the overall building market recovers and the luxury sector strengthens, demand for high-quality stone from countries such as Italy and India is still going strong.

Gravel, crushed stone, building sand

A market traditionally dominated by imports, volumes of imported gravel, crushed stone and building sand have been gradually increasing and is forecast to continue over the next four years. Key exporters to Russia are Belarus, Norway, Ukraine, and Sweden. According to the Federal Customs Service, Russia imported 5 million tonnes of crushed stone from January to April 2017, (increasing from 2 million and 4 million in the same period in 2016 and 2015 respectively). New import licensing laws on crushed stone, gravel, and sand, have not deterred use; a rise of 5% was seen from January – June 2017. Despite harbouring large reserves in the country, they are becoming more and more difficult to access from a geographical and economic point of view.


While demand for cement this year remains at 2016 levels, domestic production has fallen by 3%. This leaves cement exporters an opportunity to plug the gap and has even enabled them to increase supplies by 12.5% in the first half of 2017. Furthermore, demand is expected to increase in the mid to long term due to large scale housing renovations and major repairs to motorways. Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Turkey are Russia’s major suppliers, accounting for 62%, 8.7%, and 7.6% of all cement imports in 2016 respectively.  

Building machinery

Russia’s imports of building machinery have soared recently; in the first five months of 2017, 11,980 units were imported – 96% more than the same period in 2016. Rosspetsmash, the Russian Association of Manufacturers of Specialised Equipment puts the growth down to the strengthening of the rouble and increased demand, coupled with deferred demand after the economic crisis. Predictions for 2017 put the share of domestic manufacturers at just 34%, leaving a strong market for imports.

Green building materials

Russia may not be the most mature market for green building, but current economic and political dynamics suggest the tide is turning in its favour. As Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev commits Russia to improving its energy efficiency by 40% by 2020, Russian homebuyers and developers are becoming more energy-conscious.

“Green standards in Russia are still only recommendary and so only partially realised,” admits Anton Kulbachevsky, Head of the Department of Environmental Management and Protection. “We do not have fully ‘green-houses’ but energy efficiency and environmentally friendly materials are widely used. The Moscow government is planning to set an example starting with public buildings: schools, kindergartens, and hospitals, but we still need more green technology.”

With eco-villages springing up in rural areas and even a push to foster green building standards for the 2018 FIFA World Cup stadiums, the green-bug is gaining momentum in Russia. Exporters of environmentally friendly materials take note. 

If you’re looking to tap into the Russian market, meet tens of thousands of Russia’s buyers and specifiers at WorldBuild Moscow 2018, Russia’s leading B2B exhibition for the building industry. 

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