The strategy is supported by practice
[b]Belarus is responsible for about 1.5 percent of the world’s milk but is among the five leading suppliers of dairy products worldwide, exporting half its produce. Belarus is ranked the 5th for cheese and milk powder[/b] However, the President plans a major programme of construction and reconstruction of dairy farms, aiming to elevate Belarus’ export potential. By 2015, the country should produce 10 million tonnes of milk annually (up 53 percent on 2011’s 6.5+ million tonnes). Such dynamic development will strengthen the competitive advantage of Belarusian products abroad.
However, the President plans a major programme of construction and reconstruction of dairy farms, aiming to elevate Belarus’ export potential. By 2015, the country should produce 10 million tonnes of milk annually (up 53 percent on 2011’s 6.5+ million tonnes). Such dynamic development will strengthen the competitive advantage of Belarusian products abroad.
To expand milk yields, cows need to be well fed and kept in comfortable conditions. Accordingly, much is being done to improve the quality of cattle feed. This year’s record harvest of over 9 million tonnes of grain has reduced import requirements while sunflowers and soya beans are also being used. Meanwhile, of almost 4,800 dairy farms countrywide, only 830 were using modern technologies at the beginning of this year, with animals milked through automation. Old methods were less efficient, more stressful for animals and hard work for employees, all reducing productivity.
By 2015, Belarusian farmers hope to have raised export revenue to $7bn from today’s $5bn, with about half from dairy products. Russia is traditionally our main market, due to transportation and consumer preferences — and is likely to remain so, at least in the short term. Of course, to further increase exports, new markets are being sought. To ensure success, Belarus needs to offer good value for money. This can be achieved by reducing expenditure while producing high quality products: a task which requires technical modernisation of the dairy industry.
Mr. Lukashenko’s mission to modernise or rebuild every dairy farm by the year’s end involves 1,200 dairy farms being equipped with the latest technology. The President is taking personal control, making regular trips to the regions to view progress. Role models include Agro-combine Dzerzhinsky (30km from Minsk) which now has the most advanced technologies at its Tomkovichi farm. It is almost unrecognisable; its dark, reinforced concrete room with closed windows has been replaced by open doorways, light and fresh air. As recommended for dairy herds, it should unlock the true potential of Belarusian livestock.
Agro-combine Dzerzhinsky notes that the reconstruction at Tomkovichi farm should pay for itself within three years, with each cow producing $1,000 profit annually. In reconstructing the site, Agro-combine Zhdanovichi used the most expensive, cutting edge automated technology — as rarely seen. Light years away from the old, obsolete technology, it should bring significant results, notes the Head of Agro-combine, Grigory Chuiko. Located near the capital, it also solves the staff problem involving labour force from the suburban villages. However, fewer workers are required to service such farm.
The reconstruction of dairy farms should revolutionise milk production in Belarus. PM Mikhail Myasnikovich asserts that more work has been achieved at dairy farms over the last two years than over the past five, with developments achieving a whole new level. Work will continue over the coming year, with at least 120 new dairy farms becoming operational and the number of cows being raised by over 78,000. By 2015, Belarusian herds should comprise 1.6m cows.
Russia — main buyer of Belarusian dairy products — is now a WTO member, requiring us to improve our competitiveness even more urgently. Belarusian companies must compete with international companies, requiring costs to be reduced and quality improved. Highly productive cattle are needed, as the Director General of the Scientific-Practical Centre for Animal Breeding, of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus, explains. Nikolai Popkov believes that scientists can make their contribution, noting, “For many years, our Belarusian black and white cows have only managed to yield 800kg of milk annually per 100kg of body weight. Accordingly, we’ve been working to adapt the breed, raising yields to around 1,500kg. We are near success, which should impact dramatically on our competitiveness and export potential.”
According to experts, the new dairy breed could raise milk yields by 180,000 tonnes, creating revenue of over Br100bn. Today, only a few Belarusian farms match European milk yields of about 7,000-8,000 litres of milk per year per cow, creating stable revenue (compared to riskier crop production). Such farms strengthen the whole agricultural sector while expanding export potential.
The Agriculture and Food Minister of Belarus, Leonid Zayats, is keen to see the livestock industry become more efficient and profitable, with average milk yields per cow rising to at least 7,500kg by 2020. His ministry is currently developing an appropriate programme, guided by the best experts and practitioners. Soon, the country could be recognised as a significant exporter of dairy products.
By Lilia Khlystun