New concerns surrounding re-export from Belarus

Cucumbers off Russian shelves this winter?

The Russian inspection is worried about the Belarus inspections for transit. The inspection once again intercepted a party that did not meet the demands. The use of false documents is also worrying the Russians. This year the country has already blocked around 1000 tonnes of illegal products. Cucumbers seem to de disappearing from shelves during the winter months. This is taking Russia back to Soviet times. According to the Belarus minister of Agriculture, the country is self sufficient in fruits and vegetables. And in Ukraine, suppliers are fighting for consumers. Whereas some companies were forced to raise prices, other are keeping them purposefully low.



New concerns surrounding re-export from Belarus
The Russian phytosanitary service is worrying about the re-export from Belarus again. On the 9th of November the California inspection discovered thrips in a party of potted plants and cucumbers. The potted plants were of Dutch origin. Russia is mainly concerned about the Belarus inspections, which are thought to be insufficient. According to the phytosanitary service the risk of products not meeting the demands after transit through Belarus has risen. Besides these phytosanitary risks the inspection isn't convinced that Belarus isn't putting illegal products through transit. In recent months there have been multiple reports of parties intercepted that had had their paperwork tampered with. Products with forged documents, in which seasons weren't taken into account, are being intercepted more and more often. What stands out is that there are new trade flows occurring according to the documents: mushrooms from Turkey and Morocco or radish from South Africa are examples.

Countries regularly used for forged documents are Turkey, Macedonia, Ecuador, Egypt, South Africa, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Morocco, Serbia, Tunisia, Israel, Brazil and Chile. In 2014 a total of 82 forged documents were found. The counter this year is already at 388 intercepted forgeries.

Russia already stopped 1000 tonnes of illegal product
The Russian inspection has already stopped 1000 tonnes of boycotted product. Between September 2014 and September 2015 404.8 tonnes was destroyed. Another 777 tonnes was sent back to Kazakhstan, Belarus and other countries. 4 million roubles (61,000 dollars) worth of fines were handed out to exporters.

Cucumbers off Russian shelves?
According to official figures the prices in Russia in October have risen considerable. Whereas cucumbers were still 29 cents per kilo a week ago, the average price now is around 2.18 Euro. In smaller stores the prices are close to three Euro for a kilo of cucumbers. On the internet growers are thought to be offering the vegetable for up to 7.63 per kilo. According to a Russian newspaper a shortage of cucumber is the main cause of the sharp increase in prices. The cucumbers are currently only grown in greenhouses, on request. Supermarkets are queuing up for the new harvest. Growers in the warmer regions of the country ended the season a few weeks ago, those stocks are now gone. The situation is the same in various states. The prices in Krasnodar, Russia's growing region are also rising due to shortages. 

The import of cucumbers from Belarus, Turkey and Azerbaijan is expensive. The cheap supply from the EU is no longer possible due to the boycott. According to Russian media the country is back to the Soviet period when cucumbers weren't available from October to March.

Area in Moscow region grown considerably
The agricultural area in the region Moscow has grown by over 160,000 hectares since 2013, around 10% of the total area. At the start of 2013 61% of the land in the region was fields. At the end of the year this will be 74%.

The Russian authorities encourage land owners to use their property for agriculture, said governor Andrei Vorobyov. The region introduced a number of measures to stimulate agriculture a number of years ago. Less tax is paid on agricultural land (0.3% instead of 1.5%). Fines can also be issued for land that isn't being used for its intended purpose, and can be up to 10% of the cadastral value. After three years the authorities can even start a procedure to take over the land in court. Owners of unused land will be forced to sell or lease their land.

A footnote in agricultural statistics is that part of the land is used as a pasture. "Despite this, growth in the agrarian sector, especially against a background of stagnation in other sectors, has cause unused land to be taken back into use." According to regional vice president Denis Butsaev the grain production has doubled since 2013 (to 41,000 tonnes), the potato cultivation has increased by 28% (to 885,000 tonnes) and the cultivation of vegetables has risen by 30% (to 635,000 tonnes).

Yet there still aren't enough private investors in the region. Local authorities have to create the right circumstances to attract them. The programme "Agriculture of the Moscow suburbs" gives a financial stimulant. The region compensates investors 20% of the capital costs for building and modernising agrarian facilities.

"Belarus is self sufficient"
Besides Belarus exporting part of the harvest, part is stored for the winter months. At the moment the country has around 400 storage locations. During the winter months the capital Minsk is the main buyer of fruits and vegetables, says the director of Partizanskoye. The company sells around half of the fruits and vegetables in the two million strong capital. Other countries also see that there is good domestic demand, as the consumer prefers washed products according to the company. This is why a washing production line was bought two years ago. 
The minister of Agriculture emphasises that Belarus is self sufficient; "We aren't dependent on off season import. Import hasn't been a priority for a long time. The country is self sufficient. Only a small part of the assortment, such as bananas and exotics, are imported."

Prices in the Ukraine rise quickly; fight for the consumer
According to the director if the Ukrainian association for supermarket supplier there is a fight going on for the consumers, as he said in an interview with the Ukrainian website Golos.ua. "Yes, the prices for fruits and vegetables are rising, but it is uncertain whether the fruits and vegetables will be equally expensive in all stores. There are hundreds of suppliers of fruit and vegetable, it's difficult to negotiate with all of them, the prices aren't going up equally." According to the director there is a fight going on with the consumer, in which companies who can't avoid increasing the price raise it, whilst companies which some financial breathing space keep the price low. Products are also consciously being stored in expectation of even higher prices.

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