"Belarus is planning to simplify the procedure for the sale of farms, to attract investment in the development of the meat industry and create conditions that will ensure these farms have the same chance of receiving state support as other [state-owned] enterprises," said representatives from the country’s Ministry of Agriculture and Food.
Another important reform is the consolidation of the industry, which will join together some small and medium-sized meat producers or link them with larger profitable enterprises. Belarusian officials believe consolidation will make the meat industry more profitable.
According to Belarusian Minister of Agriculture and Food Leonid Zaits, all these projects will be implemented on the basis of Presidential Directive No 5 and five presidential decrees. He said the reformation will affect not only the meat industry, but also the whole agricultural sector.
However, local experts welcomed the initiative to privatise the meat industry but were skeptical about consolidation. "This initiative to join profitable producers with loss-making enterprises may help, but it is possible that, as a result, profitable producers themselves will lose effectiveness or become bankrupt. That is not an option," said Leonid Zlotnikov, associate professor at the Belarusian Academy of Sciences.
Experts are advising Belarusian authorities to launch a full privatisation of the meat industry in the country, using the example of a similar process that took place in Ukraine 10 years ago.
"In the early 2000s, when Yushchenko was [Ukraine] president, he launched large-scale reform, and Ukrainian [meat producers] moved to private property, divided the land and property among agricultural workers – and it worked. As a result, Ukraine’s agriculture has become more efficient," added Zlotnikov.
"The system of farming currently established in Belarus, is ineffective. For many years the Soviet Union tried to give the strong impetus to the development of ‘public agriculture’ – but it did not work," he said.
At the same time ex-Minister of Agriculture Vasily Leonov welcomed the idea of meat farm privatisation, but doubted that it would really take place in Belarus in the near future. He also believed consolidation was the wrong initiative.
"We have a number of profitable producers and now we are proposing to make them join forces with loss-making enterprises? And effectively, the business has no right to choose? If we give them the opportunity to expand, they would consider whether they need to do so or not. Why would they ruin their own economy? But in the current system in Belarus there is no choice," he said.