June 15, 2017
Belarus looks to China as Russia allegedly snubs dairy imports
Belarus may soon be forced to deliver dairy products to China as Russia's hygiene officials are accused of deliberately denying dairy imports by imposing bans against Belarusian dairy plants and abattoirs, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.
"Russia has closed its market to us. I've come in order to start exporting to China," Alexander Mikhailovsky said. The director of a dairy plant was attending a mid-May conference which sought to help local agriculture professionals sell their products to Chinese consumers.
Belarus' dairy industry is a critical sector as the country has a big number of producers. Its dairy also enjoyed a good reputation for its quality in Russia which is not able produce enough milk for its domestic market.
Moreover, Belarus's landlocked geography means that it is highly dependent on Russia for trade, with 95% of its food exports directed to the latter and amounting to US$3.7 billion.
Despite Moscow's contention that the bans concern hygiene issues, they bear some similarity to embargoes that Russia previously imposed on other countries in the wake of soured relations, according to AFP.
Until Russia's annexation of Crimea in Ukraine in 2014, the Federation and Belarus shared a close relationship before squabbling over border controls and energy prices.
Russian agricultural officials also claimed that Belarus exploited its embargo of European food imports by exporting inferior products to the country. In an interview with state television, Belarusian Agriculture Minister Leonid Zayats suggested that particular elements of Russian authorities have use their influences to turn away Belarusian producers.
By May, close to 100 Belarusian dairy plants and abattoirs were impacted by restrictions which have taken various forms of implementation and degrees of severity.
"We are going to sell our products to consumers who need them," Zayats commented.
According to Alexander Subbotin, Belarus' chief veterinary inspector, about 30 dairy producers had been authorised to sell to China. In the first quarter of 2017, dairy exports to the Chinese market were worth US$1.3 million, more than the entire year of 2015.
- Agence France-Presse