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Opinions & Interviews

11 Aug 2017

Belarus advised to explore food markets of Asian and Arab countries

Belarus advised to explore food markets of Asian and Arab countries

MINSK, 11 August (BelTA) - Belarus can earn on food exports to Asian and Arab countries, Professor Mikhail Kovalev, Dean of the Economics Faculty of the Belarusian State University, said during the roundtable on the role of agribusiness in the Belarusian economy hosted by BelTA’s press center on 11 August.

In his opinion, with the growth of the world's population the demand for food will grow. It is already high: developing countries import approximately $0.5 trillion worth of foodstuffs. Therefore, the target set by the Belarus government target to increase food export to $7.5 billion by 2020 could be achieved primarily through market diversification.

As an example he cited Asian countries. “They’ve got money thanks to sharp economic growth. First of all, this is, of course, China. The country already imports food worth $170 billion. Our main export item is milk, but the Chinese are just beginning to get used to milk and ice cream. There is already a saying that if every Chinese drank a glass of milk a day, there would be no enough milk in the world. Of course, this market is very promising for us,” said the professor.

But there are other markets which may be of interest to Belarus, Mikhail Kovalev continued. India, for example, buys food worth $30 billion, Malaysia $20 billion. The second giant food market is the Arab countries: Saudi Arabia imports food worth of $25 billion, the United Arab Emirates about the same, Egypt worth of $15 billion. Although Turkey exports its agricultural products it still buys a lot, approximately worth of $20 billion. In addition, there are UN procurement programs. Hopefully, we will learn to win UN tenders with time,” he added.

The geography of Belarus' food export is constantly expanding, said Alexander Shpak, the director of the Institute of Systemic Research in Agriculture at the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus. In 2016 Belarus exported goods to 82 countries. However, Russia remains the main market. The share of third countries is still low: European states account for about 6%, the Americas, Asia, Africa and Oceania for less than 1%. Therefore, one of the strategic objectives is export diversification.

From 2010 to 2016 Belarus’ export of agricultural products and foodstuffs rose 1.2 times. In recent years, Belarus has had a foreign trade surplus. It was the highest in 2013, $1.6 billion. Back then the country’s export reached $5.8 billion. Belarus mainly specializes in the export of products of animal origin: dairy accounts for over 50% of the export, meat for about 30%.

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