Meeting to discuss issues related to Vitebsk Oblast development

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  • 10:05

Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko hosted a government meeting held on 22 August to discuss issues related to Vitebsk Oblast development.

"One of the most pressing [issues] is harvest and fodder preparation. “A month ago we discussed all the pressing issues and made the necessary decisions regarding the harvesting campaign, especially on the regional level, including Vitebsk Oblast. A number of problems however remain: over a third of the areas has not been harvested in Vitebsk Oblast yet, grain yields are significantly lower than last year, and fodder harvest is also below the 2022 level,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

The head of state pointed out that there were certain objective factors in the form of dry weather. However, the situation was not the same everywhere: “Half of the areas have been affected by a dry spell, while the other half is showing good crops. More efforts were needed to compensate the shortfall by a good harvest, let's say, in the western areas.”

The President asked the Vitebsk Oblast governor to report on the preliminary results of the harvesting campaign. Aleksandr Lukashenko pointed out that many other crops, including corn, were still to be harvested, and this crop could be used to compensate for the shortfall in grain yields.

“We should assess the Vitebsk Oblast agro-industrial complex in general. If Vitebsk or other regions of our country do not have enough cereals and rapeseed, we still have corn to harvest. I have warned the deputy prime minister and the new agriculture minister that the hardest and most important stage is still ahead – it is to harvest corn, especially for grain. This year’s corn harvest is great. I am sure that if we succeed in harvesting everything, we can get another two million tonnes of corn grain,” the Belarusian leader said.

However, he added that there was no need to chase the grain harvest figures, but approach the corn harvesting issue taking into account the local needs: “It is up to you to harvest corn for grain or silage. There is no need to harvest corn for the sake of getting grain only. If your get a good corn ear, then corn silage will be very good as well. This is true especially for Vitebsk Oblast. And for other regions as well.”

Speaking about the situation in the Vitebsk Oblast agricultural sector, Aleksandr Lukashenko recalled that Decree No.70 was issued more than three years ago. The region received significant state support, including debt settlement, installment obligations for 15 years and so on.

“We have considered progress made in the Vitebsk agro-industrial complex many times, including during onsite meetings. The current governor has given assurances that efficiency growth will be secured,” the Belarusian President said. “Today we see some positive results: the region’s agriculture is demonstrating certain positive trends, milk production and milk yield per cow are growing (if we face a lack of fodder supplies, we will see these figures going down). This means that the current progress is not enough. We still have problems to solve.”

For example, the livestock population and production is on a decline, there is a lack of raw materials, and meat processing plants are not fully-loaded. “They are only loaded by one third. Dairy enterprises are 70% loaded. There is still room to grow. We have premises to process raw materials, namely milk and meat,” the President said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko also drew attention to the weak discipline in payments for the supplied agricultural products. “The payment discipline is low. This is unacceptable! If the company has no money to pay farmers, then take it from the budget. You may get no paychecks, but you must pay the people, especially for milk and meat supplies,” the head of state demanded.

“What worries me most is that you fail to pay what you need to to our population, too. I receive constant complaints,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

The President asked the Vitebsk Oblast governor to report on the reserves and plans to complete the year.

Preparations for the 11th edition of the Forum of Regions of Belarus and Russia that is to be held in Vitebsk in the summer of 2024 were also discussed at the meeting.

“We need to take the preparations as seriously as possible. I know that the proposed key theme of the event is science and innovation as drivers of economic growth of the Union State. We have something to offer to our partners (the success of TIBO 2023 confirms this) and there is also something we can learn from Russian scientists,” the head of state emphasized.

Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that the upcoming forum is also an opportunity to put forward new business ideas, and a place to showcase innovative solutions and sign major contracts. “It is necessary to communicate our concepts, plans and the things we are really good at to the general public. Maybe it is already time to invite partners from other countries to participate?” he asked.

Another topic on the agenda was the development of a Belarusian antiviral vaccine and prospects for expanding the lineup of this kind of products.

“First things first. We need to review progress to implement a very important project, which is development of a domestic antiviral vaccine at BelVitunipharm. In fact, the Vitebsk Oblast governor, who is an expert in this field, promised to get involved in this project. “Money for this project was earmarked from the budget and the innovation fund. According to the plan, the construction of the production facility should be completed this year. As I have been informed, the first stage is over, an experimental batch of the vaccine has been released,” the head of state said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that Vitebsk Oblast had already mastered the technology to produce vaccines for animals - this experience can come in handy while developing medicines for humans.

“The company’s solutions might be widely used in the production of other vaccines and medicines in the future,” the Belarusian leader emphasized.

The President asked about the quality and efficacy of the Belarusian vaccine, and how soon it will be able to meet the country’s vaccination needs. “For the time being, we use mostly someone else’s vaccines,” he noted. “By the way, I publicly warn the Healthcare Ministry of the harsh punishment for numerous cases of overreporting and mismanagement during the vaccination campaign that were identified by the State Control Committee.”

The head of state also asked to report on the progress to implement the second stage of the project: “Here, we need to think big and consider expanding the product lineup beyond just one vaccine. I have been told about a promising proposal to make antitumor drugs to treat blood diseases. It is a very important direction. How are these plans aligned with the fulfillment of my instruction to create a biotechnology cluster?”