Strangers among the familiar
It is not the first time that the country has struggled against the stereotype that imported goods are better than our own
It is not the first time that the country has struggled against the stereotype that imported goods are better than our own. This view does a disservice to our many achievements.
According to last year’s results, as a proportion of all goods, imported items comprised a 30 percent share. However, food goods made up approximately 18 percent of this. According to the principles of national food safety, this figure should be not higher than 25 percent. In spite of these encouraging figures, the Ministry of Trade still strives to improve the position of domestic producers.
Domestic goods should look attracts in show windowsAccording to the First Deputy Trade Minister, Artur Karpovich, during the final 11 months of last year, the country increased imports by more than 13 percent to $8bn. Clearly it is not only critical goods that are being imported but, as the Deputy Minister pointed out, often we import clothing and footwear of questionable quality.
In January 1st of this year, the Bellegprom Concern reported its enterprises had produced completed stock estimated at almost Br3 trillion. During January, this figure increased further. In order to reduce stocks, the Government decided, as in 2014, to sell goods at reduced prices, taking into account the market conditions. Business managers are asked to make their own decisions on whether they wish to trade at a loss or empty their warehouses.
The Trade Ministry has also promised to assist Bellegprom with its difficulties. In particular, it has already agreed with the largest chain stores that in some of its hypermarkets, branded sections of the enterprises which are part of Bellegprom will appear. Other large retailers are asked to consider similar measures. There is also a scheme currently in place to promote domestic business by allowing rental reductions for those producing more than 80 percent Belarusian goods.
Local authorities will be advised to give privileges to manufacturers wishing to place their products in popular shopping centres similar to the scheme that ran during the Ice Hockey World Championship of last year.
At present, it is possible to meet the demand for goods for physical training, sports and tourism, electric tools, mobile and radio telephones, photo goods, office equipment, high-quality leather clothing and silk fabrics. In these areas imports could be substituted with local goods. There is still potential to increase production in the areas of electrical goods, household chemicals, stationery, building materials and plumbing. At the same time, the manufacture of certain goods is being reduced, which may be ill advised. For example, refrigerators and deep-freezers, TVs, ceramic tiles, footwear, knitted goods and linen. The First Deputy Trade Minister considers that the production of import-substituting goods does not change the situation in the market. The Ministry of Trade suggested last year that industries attempt greater local production, but even successful manufactures face prejudice where dealers are concerned and often their goods are not competitive with the imported versions. One of the residents of the Grodnoinvest FEZ, for example, has developed a business in the manufacturing of wet wipes. Their products are successfully sold in Russia, Poland, Moldova, Estonia, Georgia, but some of the local chain stores refuse to sell them citing the stereotypical view that the quality is not as good as that of the imported product.
The Director General of the Atlant Plant, Victor Shumilo, is convinced that stereotypes are a real problem, he refuses to accept that, in order to remain competitive, local goods should be cheaper than imports. He asserts that the best reason for buying local products is to support the manufacturers and encourage successful businesses.
By Vera Nikitina