By Vladimir Bibikov
Belarusian dairy products enjoy the greatest popularity abroad at present: dried milk, hard cheeses, butter, sour cream and cottage cheese. Sugar, confectionery and meat products are also in demand. “Our products are sold in around 50 countries, with the lion’s share headed for Russia; it’s closer to us, so yields greater economic profitability. For example, some Belarusian dairy products enjoy 60 percent profitability on the Russian market,” explains the Head of the Foreign Economic Policy Department at Belarus’ Agriculture and Food Industry, Tamara Usacheva.
About two decades ago, the situation was different. Foreign made products were found in local shops and, despite being known for its agrarian sector, Belarus seemed to be losing its market niche. The national programme of rural revival has changed the situation, with regional and branch programmes modernising the production and processing of milk, meat and crops. State support has primarily focused on the technical re-equipment of the agrarian-industrial branch, using the world’s latest technologies and expertise, raising crop harvests, milk yields and meat volumes. From January 2010-11, agricultural production rose by 6 percent. Exports are growing while local customers are fully provided for. In fact, in 2010, Belarusians consumed 5 percent more dairy products.
Many domestic enterprises have certified their produce for EU markets, allowing increased exports to these states. It’s an approach which brings good dividends; in 2010, dried milk doubled in price on the international market, while butter and casein saw a 70 percent rise in price. In this way, Belarus is able to significantly compensate for the rise in world oil and natural gas prices (which we need to import). In five years’ time, Belarusian agricultural exports should reach $7bn, creating a positive balance of $4bn.