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Ministry of Agriculture and Food of the Republic of Belarus


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Minister of Agriculture and Food of the Republic of Belarus
Leonid ZAYATS

 

In the history of its development, the agricultural production of the country went through many stages: from manual labour in private landholding and poverty among the peasantry to modern high-intensity production based on the latest achievements of national and world science, using automatic technical means, as well as space systems.

Many obstacles were overcome on the way, which led to huge losses of labour resources and material and technical base. The October Revolution, the Civil War, the First and the Second World Wars – they all repeatedly destroyed everything that had been developed earlier and came at huge expenses for the restoration and further development of the industry.

By the early 1990s, Belarus was among the leading countries in the production of agricultural products not only in the former Soviet Union, but also among many developed countries of Europe. The republic produced more meat and milk per capita than Germany, France, and the United Kingdom; grain production exceeded the average production in the European Union by three times. Belarus was the world’s biggest potato and flax fiber producer. One agricultural worker provided food for more than 20 people. In 1985–1990, the republic exported up to 1 million tons of potatoes, 300 thousand tons of meat and more than 2 million tons of dairy products.

At the initial stage of development of a sovereign state and the establishment of a new economic system, there was a dramatic drop in agricultural production. The destruction of the single economic space of the USSR deprived Belarus of raw materials for the production of nitrogen and phosphate fertilizers, targeted supplies of 3–4 million tons per year of grain, the whole range of plant and animal protection products, most types of agricultural equipment and fuel for it.

The result of political mistakes made by the country’s leadership at that time, who were blindly copying international practices of shock market reforms, was the dismantling of the kolkhoz-sovkhoz (collective farm and state farm) production. This led to serious consequences. The situation with the staff of managers and specialists became complicated. During 1992–1994, fixed assets decreased by 1.8 times, current assets – by more than twofold. Agricultural production and the economy of farms deteriorated dramatically. A food rationing system was implemented in the country.

Under these circumstances within the first days of his election, the President A.G. Lukashenko set the task to urgently fill the national market with food at all rates, regardless of costs, and feed the people. Moreover, by 2000, the food markets were close to the European ones, state security was ensured, and agricultural exports developed.

Describing the dynamics of the development of the agrarian sector in the new history of Belarus, one can briefly say: starting from the food rationing system in the early 1990s the republic now not only fully fed its population, but also entered the export-oriented agrarian economy, ready to offer the foreign buyer an excess of almost any agricultural products produced in its natural environment.

The correctness of the course chosen in the country for the formation of the national model of the agro-industrial complex is indisputable, and even the most stringent opponents could not disprove it. However, each sector of the national economy is constantly in a state of development, improvement of the organizational and technological mechanisms of management, adapting to the needs of national and world markets, to the challenges of world politics and the economy.

In its development, the agro-industrial complex of the republic has passed five stages so far, each of which was implemented based on the targeted state programmes.

The most effective was the State Programme for the Revival and Development of the Village for 2005–2010, which was designed to create a sustainable agrarian economy of a developed state, guaranteeing the country’s food security, ensuring a substantial contribution of the agricultural sector to the export potential of Belarus, as well as to provide a comprehensive solution of the social problems of the village, ensuring decent living standards for its workers.

In order to achieve the objectives set for the agrarian industry, important decisions were made annually at the level of the head of state, government, and regional executive committees on the financial support of agricultural production, which ensured success in all its sectors. For example, in 2010, 4.9 trillion rubles (635 thousand denominated rubles), or 213 US dollars per hectare of farmland, were allocated to finance agricultural production from budgets of all levels.

As a result of the implementation of the organizational measures of the programme and the activation of innovative processes, by the end of 2010, the modern infrastructure of the industry was formed in the agrarian complex. In each region of the country, modern commercial dairy farms were erected for 500–1100 livestock each. 1117 commercial dairy farms, 184 complexes for hog and cattle growing and fattening, 60 poultry farms were reconstructed and technically re-equipped. The practice of supplying the most sophisticated energy-rich equipment on a leasing basis continued to develop.

The implemented measures allowed meeting all the planned programme targets. The gross output in agricultural organizations and peasant (farm) enterprises increased by 52.7%. The agro-industrial complex of the country fully provided a decent national food market and expanded the export of almost all types of agricultural products produced in its natural environment. Agricultural exports in 2010 exceeded 2 billion US dollars.

The tasks outlined by the programme in the social sphere are successfully solved. In the rural areas, 1481 agro-towns were created by 2010, in which the package of social benefits is close to the urban ones. 44.2 thousand square meters of comfortable housing with a complex of outbuildings were put in commission. More than 44 thousand families celebrated housewarming parties in new apartments or houses of good quality, mainly of cottage type. The republic reached the average monthly salary in agricultural organizations equivalent to 300 dollars, as planned.

The directions for the development of the agro-industrial complex laid down in the document were present in subsequent programmes for 2011–2015 and 2016–2020. They are developed to ensure a high quality of life of the population and the sustainability of rural development and, on this basis, to increase the efficiency and competitiveness of production, to strengthen food security, and increase export volumes. Milk production should increase to 9.2 million tons, cattle meat – to 720 million tons, pigs and poultry, respectively, to 540 and 615 thousand tons.

In crop production, it is planned to increase the yield of grain crops by 9% by the end of 2020, as compared to 2015, potatoes yield – by 25%, vegetables yield – by 9%, fruits and berries yield – by 2.5 times, rapeseed yield – by 31%, sugar beets yield – by 51%, crop production in farms of all categories by 9.3%.

I have provided a lot of facts and figures. There is a man or woman behind all of them. The man or woman of labour, and not of an easy, but of selfless labour. Conscientious labour, imbued with love for one’s work, one’s homeland, one’s land. The workers of the agro-industrial complex of Belarus are its true gold. They deserve everything that we define as decent: working and living conditions, salary, everything necessary for comfortable life in the village within walking distance. That is why we need to continue to work on improving the basic principles of increasing the prestige of living in rural areas.

This year, as well as the previous year, has been declared as the Year of the Small Motherland. This succession is symbolic as we are faced with the task – a task not only for one five-year anniversary – to preserve and give further growth to the village. So for the sake of achieving this objective, we will follow the path of development, set ambitious goals and carry them out, introduce new technologies into agricultural production, making the villagers work more civilized and comfortable. We will continue to improve villages, bringing living conditions there closer to the urban conditions. And the next step towards the implementation of these tasks is the “villages of the future”, the drafts of which are already made.