Working trip to Vitebsk Oblast

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Belarusian President said that Belarusian flax has to be restored to its former glory. He made the statement during a working trip to Orsha District, Vitebsk Oblast, where he held a session to discuss the development of the Belarusian flax industry on 19 September.

Aleksandr Lukashenko reminded that a similar session was held in Orsha in March 2010. “Back then problems in this sector were unearthed and, it seemed to us, solutions were found. In other words, we made up our minds regarding what and how had to be done for the flax industry to recover from the crisis,” the head of state said. The President emphasized that the government had undertaken to fulfill the plans while civil servants had been assigned specific instructions to carry out. Later on a complex business plan was adopted to guide the development of the Belarusian flax industry in 2013-2015.

“It is time to sum up some results of this work. I am told that the results are unsatisfactory for now. The bulk of the problems that were mentioned during the previous conference are still in place,” the President remarked.

Aleksandr Lukashenko mentioned specific facts. “It was decided how many flax factories we need. We decided on the technology to grow flax, optimal timing for flax sowing and harvesting, for retted straw processing. We set priorities for retooling flax-growing enterprises and flax factories. We worked out approaches to modernize Orsha Linen Mill as the most important link in the entire manufacturing and marketing chain from procuring raw materials to selling ready-made flax products. What do we have now?” the head of state wondered.

“Despite efforts of the central and municipal government agencies to sugarcoat the situation state auditors cannot be deceived. I am told that as it was in the past, flax can be sown in all oblasts at a bad time,” Aleksandr Lukashenko noted. “I am astounded by the inability to sow flax in a small plot of land – 50ha, 100ha at most, rarely 150ha — with optimal timing,” he added.

The President pointed out that the failure to observe the flax-growing technology reduces the output of merchandise and its quality. “Moreover, flax has been sown on lands unfit due to their agrochemical properties,” the head of state was indignant.

According to auditing agencies, the machines used to grow flax are still very much worn out, qualified mechanics and drivers are in short supply. “The auditors must be thinking it up,” the President said. “This is ridiculous! You need just one mechanic for 50ha. Do winter tillage, one mechanic is sufficient to plough the land and sow flax in spring. The production manager and the agronomist have to stand close by,” the head of state added.

Aleksandr Lukashenko stated that the modernization of Belarusian flax mills was taking too long, plans were being disrupted. Apart from that, in some cases the head of state had to interfere when expensive imported equipment was left idle outdoors.

“The complex modernization of Orsha Linen Mill is past the deadline. The facilities, which had to be retooled in the first phase, have been shifted to the second phase. But even the second phase of the modernization campaign is far behind the schedule,” the President remarked.

“The result is logical: the flax industry is operating at a loss,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed. “Its competitive ability is inferior at every step of flax processing. The volume and quality of the flax products cannot satisfy requirements of the time and capabilities of our enterprises,” he added.

Addressing participants of the conference, the President remarked they were going to look at results from the critical point of view, determine the areas that need most attention, work out the relevant measures throughout the manufacturing process from flax seed production to the manufacturing of modern garments that sell well in Belarus and abroad.

“According to the Belarusian Statistics Committee, Belarus is ranked second in flax fiber production worldwide. It is time the quantity was turned into quality. The former glory of the Belarusian flax should be revived. We should be trendsetters in this area,” the President emphasized.

Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that a lot has been done in the country to improve its flax industry. “This culture is “political” for Belarus. It is present on the state emblem of our country. That is not the case of politics of course. It is simply a wonderful product,” the head of state said.

“A short formula is to eat and wear what you produce on your land. You will not find better products than those cultivated on the land you have been grown up on. No oranges, lemons and bananas will be able to replace the food that is produced here,” the President believes.

“We still know little about the connection between man and these products. People, however, made the right conclusion long time ago: you will be healthy if you eat the food grown on your land. The same is true about clothes. This is our fabric. I am not even talking about patriotism. It is really healthy,” the President noted. He stressed that more textile such as the one he was shown at the Orsha Flax Mill should be produced for the market. “I am confident that if shown in Russia, they will go like hot cakes there. Russian people know and remember what flax is famous for,” the head of state added.

The session focused on all sectors of the flax industry, namely seed breeding, flax growing conditions, harvesting technologies and flax processing, interaction between companies, manufacture and sale of finished products. The head of state heard out reports regarding possible solutions from government officials, directors of enterprises, scientists.

Participants of the session discussed a wide range of issues. They agreed that in order to make the industry self-sufficient it is necessary to strictly observe technical regulations at all stages, from the growing of flax to the modernization of processing companies. It is also essential to comply with scientists’ recommendations, supervise the fulfillment of instructions. It is also deemed necessary to increase financial incentives for flax growers and to produce high-quality goods. The head of state gave a number of instructions.

“You must make the full requital with the farmers by 1 October,” the Belarusian leader said.

The President’s number one requirement is to study the situation in settlement payments between the companies of the sector at different stages and fix acceptable prices to keep interest in the production and supplies of quality raw material for flax processing. “You tell me you have regulated the prices. Thus, move forward. If everything is good, then farms should be interested in the production of this crop,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

The head of state warned central government officials in charge of agriculture against taking functions away from oblast governors. “Don’t meddle with affairs of oblast governors. Otherwise, you will be the ones responsible. We have agreed that governors will take care of agriculture. Governors will be the ones to determine the entire policy. The minister will be the one to take care of technology while the central government will take care of prices and so on. But only oblast governors are to blame for the current failure of the flax industry. If flax was grown and processed the way the technology requires, even old machines would be able to process it,” the Belarusian leader stressed.

“The governors bear the key responsibility for agriculture performance indicators such as corn, grain, potatoes, beet or flax,” the head of state added.
The President also gave an instruction to provide necessary flax growing equipment to farmers.

“During our conference everyone heard what needs to be done today. In view of this I still believe that those responsible for shortcomings and even failures must bear responsibility,” the President said to sum up the discussion. Aleksandr Lukashenko instructed the State Control Committee and the Belarus President Administration to analyze the relevant matters and submit proposals regarding the responsibility of specific civil servants.