Working trip to Grodno Oblast

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The state will prioritize targeted financing of the promising agricultural projects, President of Belarus Aleksandr Lukashenko said during his working trip to Grodno Oblast on 15 August.

“The next year should become a turning point in land management. We need to pay special attention to land reclamation,” the head of state said.

The President reminded that the country has done a lot to improve vehicle fleets, grain drying, handling and storage facilities, animal farms and social infrastructure. “Now we need to deal with land, infrastructure and other things the government is responsible for. Land reclamation is a number one priority,” the head of state noted.

“We are working on land reclamation, but not hard enough. We need to double, or even triple our efforts,” the President emphasized. He noted that the demand for foodstuffs will keep increasing worldwide. In his view, Belarus has great production facilities; however ample land resources are needed to get a good harvest.

“It is a shame that we make so little headway in land reclamation. We have learned to do it; we have developed virtually all kinds of land reclamation machinery, so now we need to ramp up efforts,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said. He noted that he expects proposals on the matter from Belarus’ Agriculture and Food Minister Leonid Zayats and Vice Premier Mikhail Rusyi.

The President believes that the agricultural industry can become self-sufficient. The government will finance only promising projects.

“You have plenty of equipment, and people who want to work. All conditions have been created for agriculture. The government will be allocating the funds in the activities and programs, for which it is primarily responsible: roads, land reclamation, and so on. This is important for the state," the President said.

"We will stop supporting agriculture as heavily as we used to. Farmers need to learn to make money themselves,” said Aleksandr Lukashenko. He drew attention to the fact that today the prices for farm produce are high enough and they can make good money,” the President said.

"This does not mean that we will stop the support altogether. If it is necessary, if we see that the return on the invested ruble is high, we will invest,” said the head of State.

The President stressed that the state will fund only the projects aimed at specific products.

The President noted that while on board a helicopter he compared farming standards in various parts of Belarus. In his words, Grodno Oblast is ahead of others, so other regions should follow suit.

As part of the working trip the President visited the combined fodder factory at OAO Agrokombinat Skidelsky. The President got familiar with modern technologies of colza seeds processing, production of combined fodder and premix compounds. The head of state was informed about the fulfillment of instructions to promote import substitution in the combined fodder industry. According to Agriculture and Food Minister Leonid Zayats, the country meets the domestic demand for compound feed in full. In his words, the production of compound feed has increased 1.4 times compared to 2004. The country produces enough compound feed to meet domestic needs. He noted that in January-July 2014 some $60 million was saved by replacing sunflower oil by rapeseed oil in compound feed.

The head of state was also told about the final stage of the grain harvesting campaign. Over 9 million tonnes of cereals have been harvested. The average yield is 39.5 centners per hectare. Leonid Zayats believes that the harvesting will be completed in some three to four days. At present grain crops are being harvested in the northern part of Vitebsk Oblast. Combine harvesters are delivered to Vitebsk Oblast from other regions, whenever needed.

“We have harvested 9 million tonnes of grain crops, more than ever before. That is how we should work. If we harvest another 1.5 million tones of corn, as you have promised, we will be able to meet the domestic needs,” the head of state said.

The President emphasized that all grain crops should be harvested. “You know what happens in the countryside: when 5% of crops is left, you give up, while this 5% is sometimes what we lack. It is bread. It should be harvested now, without any respites,” the President underlined.

Aleksandr Lukashenko was interested in the situation with the harvesting of potatoes and vegetables.

The head of state also touched upon the export of Belarusian products.

The President was told that Belarusian products enjoy an increased demand in Russia. According to Belarus’ Agriculture and Food Minister Leonid Zayats, Belarus can earn $2.1 billion in revenues on dairy and meat exports alone to the Russian Federation from August to December. “They want our cheese, 82% fat butter,” Leonid Zayats said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko has warned officials against stripping the domestic market of products in view of the increased demand for Belarusian foodstuffs in Russia.

“We need to take advantage of the situation and make money,” the Belarusian head of state noted.

“We should keep in mind that although they have closed their market, we have not undertaken any commitments regarding our domestic market. We can import products from any part of the world. We need to process more and sell more. However, we also need to coordinate our plans with Russia, so that they would not blame us for disregarding their policy,” the President said.

The President also visited the agricultural company Progress-Vertelishki. When visiting the Progress-Vertelishki farm President got acquainted with the intensive fruit and berry production technologies used in contemporary horticulture.

Aleksandr Lukashenko believes that the country needs to start producing enough fruits and vegetables to satisfy the domestic demand in full. In due time the country resolved the problem with potatoes and beetroot. "We can do it! We need to produce enough apples, fruits and give up on import. We can produce them ourselves," the President said. In his opinion, Belarus needs to choose the right technologies, study the experience of other countries.

Grodno Oblast Governor Vladimir Kravtsov reported to the President that apples in the region are grown on the area of more than 4,000 hectares. The yields are higher here than average in the country. According to him, the only problem is the lack of storage facilities.

Minister of Agriculture and Food Leonid Zayats pointed out that the country consumes 90,000 tonnes of apples, a half of them are produced locally. At the same time, the apple storage facilities in the country are designed for 80,000 tonnes.

The fruit garden on Progress-Vertelishki is one of the first gardens of industrial type in Belarus. Here, the farm grows more than 40 varieties of apple trees. In 2013, the harvest was more than 3,000 tonnes of apples and almost 1,500 tonnes of late varieties of apples which were put in storage. The farm also grows the blueberries and garden strawberries. For storage of apples the farm built storehouses for vegetables and fruit for 2,200 tonnes per season. The apple cold storage facility has a controlled gas environment. Apples are kept fresh from September to April and May, the losses are minimal. In 2009, a line was installed to sort the fruit by weight, diameter and color.

Aleksandr Lukashenko thinks that Progress-Vertelishki is the best farm in the country. In his opinion, it would make sense to send executives there to gain experience in successful farming, and also students of agricultural schools.