Belarus to increase food exports to Russia in view of Moscow's ban on European food imports

Belarus is ready to deliver foodstuffs to Russia to replace goods from countries with respect to which Moscow has imposed restrictions on imports. This was stated by Belarus' First Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Food Leonid Marinich.

According to the official, Belarus is ready to replace many food items previously exported to Russia by Western countries. "This is like a Klondike for us," said Mr Marinich.

On 6 August, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree to ban the import of agricultural products, raw materials and foodstuffs from countries that have imposed sanctions against Russia. The restrictions will apply during one year.

In particular, Belarus plans to increase supplies to Russia of cheeses, meats and whole milk. Belarusian farmers are also willing to provide additional supplies of vegetables.

"We will replace Dutch potatoes and Polish apples. We have everything," said the deputy minister.

It is expected that the list of products which supplies to Russia are prohibited will be published on 7 August.

The Russian head of state instructed the government to draw up a list of products covered by the August 6 ban. Simultaneously, the cabinet will prepare measures to prevent the rapid rise in prices for agricultural and food products.

Updated on August 7, 2014 at 13:30

Belarus and Russia will discuss the issue of increasing the supply of Belarusian foodstuffs to the Russian Federation in the middle of August. The increase in supplies is due to the adoption of the decree of the Russian Federation to respond to Western sanctions. This was announced on August 7 by the Minister of Agriculture and Food Leonid Zayats.

"Yesterday I had a telephone conversation with head of Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance Sergei Dankvert. Next week, he is going to come to Belarus to discuss issues related to the supply of Belarusian products to the Russian market," said the minister.

According to him, Belarus already knows the volumes that it wants to deliver in 2014. "We have an opportunity to significantly increase supplies to the Russian market," said Leonid Zayats. Belarus is ready to provide its eastern neighbor with excess products.

The Minister noted that Belarus is convinced of the quality of its products. "These are natural and safe products, which can compete with any European products in terms of consumer qualities," noted Mr Zayats.

Against the background of the expected increase in supply of products to Russia, the head of the Ministry of Agriculture underlined that it will not affect the domestic market.

"The situation in the domestic market of meat and dairy products has stabilized, so our goal is to improve the competitiveness of domestic products, expand its product range and represent in foreign markets the products of high consumer properties," said the minister.

Updated on August 7, 2014 at 19:30

Belarusian apples not worse than Polish ones, experts believe. Agrokombinat "Zhdanovichi" cultivates apples, pears and potatoes only in line with European standards. It has been delivering their products to Russia for several years. In the light of recent events, they are ready to increase supply by about half.

Viktor Kovtukh, Deputy General Director for Marketing of Agrokombinat Zhdanovichi:
Our company has a 400-hectare garden, and every year the volume of production increases. Despite this fact, we plan to increase the volume of exports, but not at the expense of the Belarusian market.

Dozens of goods from Europe and the USA were included in the Russian black list. These are dairy products and cheeses, fruits and vegetables, meat and fish. Additional export opportunities opened up for Belarus thanks to Russian response to Western sanctions. Belarusian companies are ready to meet the demands of Russian consumers in many ways. First of all, this pertains to vegetables, fruits and dairy products.

Georgy Grits, Ph.D. in economics:
The potential of Belarusian agriculture testifies to the fact that it can be implemented. Belarus can greatly increase its exports, which is about $4 billion. 

Experts note that one should not worry about the security of Belarusian internal market. Domestic enterprises have the potential to increase production.

Georgy Grits, Ph.D. in economics:
The domestic market has always been a priority. Sometimes even to the detriment of the international environment. The focusing on social policy excludes such expectations.

Experts try to describe another component of the export issue.  Belarus and Russia in the framework of the Customs Union are bound by a lot of obligations, including trade-related ones. The problem may arise in the field of Belarus' import. According to the rules of the Customs Union, its member countries must adhere to a common trade policy with third countries. In Belarus' case, these third states include the countries with which Russia stopped cooperation for at least a year, reports the program "24 Hours" on the CTV channel.  

Sergei Solodovnikov, Doctor of Economic Sciences:
Russia cannot demand from the Republic of Belarus the imposition of any measures. The Russian Federation can negotiate with the Republic of Belarus the introduction of some measures. But the Customs Union regulation does not imply that. It is now clear that the Republic of Belarus will not have the right for transit supplies of those countries' goods.

The EU has said that it will seek the WTO's help to lift Russia's ban on the import of foodstuffs.

Read more: Vladimir Putin calls Alexander Lukashenko to discuss 'measures to ensure Russia's economic security' on August 7