The local trade wars of Belarus

The regional authorities in Belarus in February started putting the local producers on the shops’ priority lists, following recommendations from the Ministry of Trade. In some regions, vendors have been given mandatory quotas for the locally-made products, while others have been "advised" to do so.

The situation resembles a somewhat modern variant of feudal wars. For instance, meat from the Minsk-made butcheries cannot be sold in Barysau, while the Pinsk-made bread is not supplied to Sluck.

Entrepreneurs in Brest were the first to ring the alarm bells. The leadership of the local Union of Entrepreneurs filed a complaint with the local city hall, saying they had been forced to put the locally-made products on their shop shelves.

We decided to research this situation and asked Uladzimir Nazemnau, the chief of the Brest city hall’s department of trade and services, to comment.

“We have a list of the Brest-based manufacturers, and their products must be among the assortment of goods in the local shops.

Economic entities, including private vendors, have the right to sell any products. We do not limit them regarding the products from the other regions of the country. Simply, the products of our local producers should be presented, too,” he said.

A similar situation is reported from the town of Barysau, where vendors have been obliged to add the local products to their usual stock on sale. We called a grocery store “Continent” there and asked how they fulfilled the measure of the local authorities.

“We have been given quotas for the products made in Barysau, and we have to choose them. Therefore, we are obliged to fulfill the plan for the sales of the local products. The quotas are almost unreal, and we are hardly to fulfill them this month.

We have been ordered to report to the city hall after each sale. We have been given a mandatory quota of 3 tons of meat instead of a usual 1 ton. Regarding the local diary, they want us to sell millions of liters,” a sales attendant told the European Radio for Belarus.

We also asked Jaraslau Ramancuk, a prominent economist with the Minsk-based Strategy think tank, to share his view on the situation.

“You know the way they implement recommendations in this country. This is not the 2007 phenomenon. In fact, we have never had what is called a common economic space within the borders of one country.

The stupidity of this policy is that the regions have been imposed economic growth targets, so the local authorities try to accomplish them. Before talking about any economic integration with Russia or Ukraine, they should have first start with reintegration of their own country,” Ramancuk said.

The situation has not been resolved. It is not clear yet whether vendors in Brest can buy Minsk-made vodka, while the residents of Barysau can drink the Brest-made milk. This depends on the local authorities and on how they rush to implement the recommendations from the Ministry of Trade. But, nobody is asking consumers, as usual.

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