TRADE AND MARKET I NG in Belarus T he potato is the second bread in Belarus. The Belarusian farmers grow potatoes on approximately 6 percent of the 5 million hectares of arable land. Of this, 10% is no longer usable because of the consequences of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster in 1986, says Adama’s account manager Alexander Azarov during a tour of the potato country. He knows that with almost 75 percent of the total acreage, cereals are by far the most important crop. It is mainly the vast cereal fields that determine the view in the rolling landscape that is interspersed with beautiful forests in which game survives very well. It is striking that of the total potato area of 277,200 hectares in 2017, only 27,500 hectares are cultivated on the collective farms (or kolkhozes) and 14,200 hectares on private professional farms. Most of the 235,500 hectares are cultivated by Belarusians in small gardens, the famous dachas that are spread all over the country. Whereas in the Soviet era 90 percent of the population lived and worked in rural areas, this percentage has now dropped to 20 percent. ‘The often welleducated young people prefer to move to the city, where the rapidly growing IT sector offers much better salaries than working in agriculture’, is what Azarov sees among his own friends. This makes it increasingly difficult for farming businesses to find good farm workers and the call for farm mechanisation is increasing, from which mainly private initiatives are apparently benefiting. Technological progress is needed On the SNOV kolkhoz, an hour’s drive from the capital Minsk, agronomist Alexander Shamanov arrives in his fourwheel drive Lada, the ultimate off-roader for agronomists in Belarus. He says that at the end of the last century, there were still 2,500 collective farms, the large – often mixed – state-owned enterprises with thousands of hectares of agricultural land. Today, a total of 1,400 collective farms are still active in Belarus, the largest of which covers 18,000 hectares. The government is still the owner of these kolkhozes and therefore has a lot of influence. This often hinders technological progress. Shamanov’s kolkhoz employs a total of 2,500 people who all receive a salary and a pension scheme Potato World 2018 • number 4 29 Pagina 28

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