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Belarus to Benefit Russia's EU Food Bans

Published: August 9, 2014 (Issue # 1823)



  • Alexander Lukashenko surveys a field of wheat in Belarus.
    Photo: Belta Video / YouTube

Belarus stands to profit off the bans that Russia has imposed on a range of Western food imports, with a chance to both boost its own production and, potentially, become a transit zone for banned European goods, economists said Friday.

The Russian government on Thursday published an extensive list of Western food products that have been barred from import to Russia in retaliation against European and U.S. sanctions on Moscow over the crisis in Ukraine.

The ban will derail imports worth an estimated $9 billion a year, including fruit and vegetables, dairy, meat products and fish from the European Union, the United States, Australia, Canada and Norway.

On Thursday, Leonid Marinich, Belarus's first deputy agriculture minister, said that his country was ready to shoulder the burden in the event of a food shortage in Russia, referring to the opportunity as a modern-day equivalent to the 19th century gold rush in Klondike, Canada.

"We can make up for many of the Western-made food products," Marinich was quoted as saying by RIA Novosti. "We can supply a variety of cheeses…we can replace Polish apples and Dutch potatoes, we have them all," he said.

Almost as soon as the food bans were announced on Thursday the Russian Internet was chuckling over a joke that tellingly anticipated Belarus's new role.

In the joke, a customer in a busy Russian store is offered some mussels with the improbable label "Made in Belarus." When the customer raises an eyebrow and says that this is impossible — Belarus is, after all, landlocked — he is told that the mussels were made in Belarus, period, and has has no option other than to buy the "Belarusian mussels."

The joke is not so far from reality, as Belarus has, in fact, already dabbled in so-called "grey exports" before, according to Dmitry Bolkunets, an economist at Moscow's Higher School of Economics.

"In recent years, Belarus has successfully exported Polish pork to Russia, which was not produced within the country but was sold with a Belarusian label," Bolkunets said.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Tuesday, Oct. 21


The Environment, Health and Safety Committee of AmCham convenes this morning at 9 a.m. in the organization’s office.


Take the opportunity to pick the brains of Dmitry V. Krivenok, the deputy director of the Economic Development Agency of the Leningrad region, and Mikhail D. Sergeev, the head of the Investment Projects Department, during the meeting with them this morning hosted by SPIBA. RSVP for the event by emailing office@spiba.ru before Oct. 17 if you wish to attend.


Improve your English at Interactive English, the British Book Center’s series of lessons on vocabulary and grammar in an informal atmosphere. Starting at 6 p.m., each month draws attention to different topics in English, with the topic for this month’s lessons being “visual arts.”



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