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The Paradoxical Nature Of Belarusian Trade With Russia After Embargo Featured

24 March 2016

Belarusian exporters continue to increase exports of fruits and vegetables to Russia, filling a hole in the produce market share that opened up following the embargo. As a result, imports into Belarus have simultaneously been on the rise alongside its export volumes largely due to Russia's counter-measures. Frozen fruits, vegetables, lettuce, onions, stone fruit, garlic, apples and pears are the sectors that suffered the most in the Russian market because it is difficult to find replacements to these types of produce. However, these are also the categories that have seen impressive increases in Belarusian imports over the course of the year with distinct increases in exports of these categories supplied to the Russian market in 2015.

Belarusian Imports

In 2015, Belarus increased vegetable imports over the course of 2014 by 39% to 522 thousand tonnes and by 36% in terms of monetary value to US $490.2 million, according to the National Statistics Committee of Belarus (Belstat). Imports of fruit to Belarus saw a similar trend, increasing by 56% on the year to 1.6 million tonnes and by 58% in monetary value to US $1.4 million.

There were several categories in particular that stood out among Belarus' increased agricultural imports including frozen fruits - a 263% by weight increase, lettuce - a 162% increase, frozen vegetables - 122%, stone fruits - 97%, onions and garlic - 79%; carrots, beets and other roots - 73%, apples and pears - 68%. Apple and pear imports saw the most significant growth by volume, having gained an increase of 369 thousand tonnes on the year. Next in line were stone fruit, which saw a growth of 121 thousand tonnes over the course of the year.


Belarusian Exports

Belarusian exports also significantly increased in 2015 compared to 2014. Vegetable exports rose to 873 thousand tonnes (an on-year increase of 49%) and fruit exports grew to 1.2 million tonnes (99% increase). The monetary value of fruit exports from Belarus grew by 27% to US $267 million; however, in sharp contrast, the monetary value of vegetable exports to Russia dropped by 7% to US $284 million. The downturn in the monetary value of vegetable exports was related to the significant drop of product prices of Belarusian shipments in 2015, according to information provided by Belstat.

The difference between the cost of imported and exported products from Belarus is nothing short of abnormal with some prices of exported products falling nearly by a factor of three below the purchase price on the part of Belarusian companies. For example, the average price of apples imported by Belarus in 2015 amounted to $601 per tonne, whereas the average export price of similar products was US $182 per tonne, stone fruit had been imported at US $1,281 per tonne and exported for US $205 per tonne; imported kiwi amounted to US $1,241 per tonne and the average export price was US $196 per tonne. A similar situation was observed in nearly all the remaining categories.

The following categories demonstrate the largest on-year share of increases by weight: onions/garlic - 358%, frozen fruits - 275%, frozen vegetables - 212%, lettuce - 183%, stone fruits - 171%. By volume, exports of apples and pears increased by 361 thousand tonnes, stone fruits gained 135 thousand tonnes and potatoes - 93 thousand tonnes.


Trends Of Belarusian Exports To Russia in 2015

A large portion of Belarusian exports has traditionally been shipped to the Russian market. In 2015, this resulted in 93% of vegetable exports and 90% fruit exports exported to Russia.

Canned vegetables for further processing and dried legumes were the only exception. In 2015, only 4% of exports of canned vegetables for further processing from Belarus, and only 25% of exports of dried legumes were exported to Russia.

Processed mushrooms accounted for a large part of the canned vegetable category that requires further processing. These export shipments were mainly delivered to the countries of the European Union, including Germany, France, Poland and others. The main share of legumes consisted of peas, which were shipped to Latvia and Estonia.

For almost all other export categories of fruit and vegetable products, about 90% of the export category volume were shipped to the Russian market.

An increase in the volume of exports to Russia nearly grew alongside the growth in exports of fruit and vegetable products. Belarusian fruit exports to Russia in 2015 nearly doubled and vegetable shipments increased by 50%. Among the exports headed to Russia, the categories that showed the highest shares of growth by weight were frozen fruits (362% on-year increase), onions/garlic (349%), dried legumes (249%), frozen vegetables (215%), lettuce (209%), stone fruits (203%), melons/watermelons/papaya (115%), kiwis/berries/persimmons/other fruits (101%) and apples/pears/quince (100%).

By volume, exports of apples and pears increased by 338 thousand tonnes and stone fruits gained 138 thousand tonnes.

Kiwi exports to Russia also more than doubled in 2015. For example, the volume of Belarusian kiwi exports between January 2015 to December 2015 amounted to more than 19.3 thousand tonnes. Kiwi imports to Belarus grew by 75 percent to 25.7 thousand tonnes.

Another paradox is that such large quantities of low-priced Belarusian products exported to the Russian market had no effect on the market price of these products within Russia.

Now specialists at FruitNews are keeping a close watch on any new trends that emerged in fruit and vegetable imports to Russia in 2015 to provide other insightful analysis.

FruitNews article (Russian):


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