Belarus improves fruit export schemes to Russia
fears that products from the sanctions list could penetrate Russia bypassing the existing food embargo. For Belarus, export of exotic fruit is a good opportunity to generate additional income. Claims by Russia may be withdrawn if exports decrease and verification of the supporting documents improves.
According to the National Statistics Committee, in January-July 2015, supplies of tangerines, oranges and persimmons have more than doubled (up by 2.5 times), peaches almost tripled (2.8 times), kiwi – increased by 4.7 times, and avocado by 52 times. These types of fruits do not grow in Belarus. The Rosselkhoznadzor claims, that under the disguise of forged certificates, products from the countries on a sanctions list (Italy, Spain, and Greece) could have been supplied to Russia as originating from Turkey, Egypt, Serbia, and Chile. In 2014, Russia discovered 82 counterfeit phyto-sanitary certificates and in January – September 2015 – 342.
Claims regarding the supply of exotic fruits are a continuation of the conflict between Russia and Belarus over the supply of apples, tomatoes, fish and other foodstuffs. Unlike the supply of tradition fruits and vegetables (apples, pears, tomatoes, onions, etc), when proceeds are measured in hundreds of millions of US Dollars, the supply of exotic fruits is unable to cause considerable economic damage to Russia. Since early 2015, the supply of citrus fruit was under USD 8 million, and pineapples, avocados, mangoes totalled USD 0.7 billion. The largest export was of nectarines and peaches, totalling USD 23 million. The overall exports of all exotic fruit did not exceed USD 50 million.
Thanks to the Russian food embargo, Belarus has the opportunity to make extra cash from the transit of food products to Russia from non EEU countries. Exporters use Belarusian toll roads, cooperate with logistic centres, request services of customs agents and freight forwarders. If for some reason products do not reach the Russian market, they stay in Belarusian retailers at competitive prices, which also helps to keep the prices down. Belarusian fruit exports are growing rapidly, enabling to improve the foreign trade statistics. Amid falling foreign trade turnover and despite the reasonable suspicion of the Russian side, Belarus will continue to use the EEU membership in order to gain additional revenues. To reduce the amount of claims, Belarus will reveal some counter freight supplies of sanctioned products in order to demonstrate the reliability of the EEU external border control.
Belarus has taken advantage of the transit opportunities to gain additional revenues from increased fruit exports. In order to reduce claims by the Rosselkhoznadzor, Belarus will reveal some counter freight deliveries of sanctions products, while improving transit schemes and documentary support.
The Belarusian authorities regard the Catholic conference as yet another international event to promote Minsk as a global negotiating platform. Minsk’s proposal to organise a meeting between the Roman-Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church is rather an image-making undertaking than a serious intention. However, the authorities could somewhat extend the opportunities for the Roman-Catholic Church in Belarus due to developing contacts with the Catholic world.
Minsk is attempting to lay out a mosaic from various international religious, political and sportive events to shape a positive image of Belarus for promoting the Helsinki 2.0 idea.
Belarus’ invitation to the head of the Holy See for a meeting with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church should be regarded as a continuation of her foreign policy efforts in shaping Minsk’s peacekeeping image and enhancing Belarus’ international weight. The Belarusian authorities are aware that their initiative is unlikely to find supporters among the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. In Russia, isolationist sentiments prevail.
In addition, for domestic audiences, the authorities make up for the lack of tangible economic growth with demonstrations of growth in Minsk’s authority at international level through providing a platform for religious, sportive and other dialogues.