Belarus improves fruit export schemes to Russia

April 22, 2016 19:30

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 Claims by Russia may be withdrawn if exports decrease and verification of the supporting documents improves.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.

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The Belarusian authorities have launched a discussion on the moratorium or abolition of the death penalty under the pressure of Belarusian human rights activists and international community. Apparently, the authorities are interested in monitoring public sentiments and response to the possible abolition of the capital punishment. The introduction of a moratorium on the death penalty would depend on the dynamics in Belarusian-European relations, efforts of the civil society organisations and Western capitals.

In Grodno last week, the possibility of abolishing the death penalty in Belarus or introducing a moratorium was discussed.

The Belarusian authorities are likely to continue to support the death penalty in Belarus. During his rule, President Lukashenka pardoned only one person, and courts sentenced to death more than 400 people since the early 1990s. Over the past year, Belarusian courts sentenced to death several persons and one person was executed.

There are no recent independent polls about people’s attitude about the death penalty in Belarus. Apparently, this issue is not a priority for the population. In many ways, public opinion about the abolition of the death penalty would depend on the tone of the state-owned media reports.

That said, the Belarusian Orthodox Church and the Roman-Catholic Church stand for the abolition of the capital punishment, however their efforts in this regard only limit to public statements about their stance. Simultaneously, the authorities could have influenced public opinion about the death penalty through a focused media campaign in the state media. As they did, for example, with the nuclear power plant construction in Astravets. Initially unpopular project of the NPP construction was broadly promoted in the state media, and eventually, according to independent pollsters, was accepted by most population.