According to officials, Belarus would be able to supply China with livestock products amounting to a total value of around US$200 million per quarter, which would enable the country to fully replace any losses to the Russian market.
Meanwhile, the country is actively looking to diversify its pork exports, as Russian veterinary authorities limited supplies of Belarusian pork several times last year, for reasons that could not be proved, said local producers. This, they claimed, has made the Russian market less reliable for Belarusian firms.
Marinich added that Belarus was already conducting preliminary work into diversifying its meat exports, as the country has already made trial supplies of livestock products to Nigeria, Syria and Pakistan in the first few months of this year.
"The Russian market has dropped sharply and the price of our products has fallen. In the first quarter of last year, we supplied the Russian market with the [livestock] products worth a total of US$765m, while in the first quarter of this year it decreased to US$506m, although in volume terms we supplied 4% more products than last year," said Marinich.
Expanding the list of foreign sales markets is seen as crucial for the Belarus meat industry, as currently, any price fluctuations in the Russian market hit the market in Belarus as well.
"Last year, our manufacturers were actively selling pork in Russia, and the price in the Belarusian market was mainly dictated by price movements in Russia. If we had lowered prices, then it would have been more profitable to sell products in Russia rather than Belarus," explained Katherine Bornukova, lead researcher of the Belarusian Economic Research and Economic Center.
"However, this year, because of the crisis in Russia, there has been a decrease in demand, and, because of the devaluation of the Russian ruble, our pork producers have become uncompetitive on price there. This year, exports to Russia virtually stopped. So the price [on the Belarus pork market] is completely dictated by our domestic market," she added.
Also last year, Belarus was found to have supplied sausage products containing the African swine fever genome to Russia and, as a result, the Bobruisk and Minsk processing plants, which are largest in the country, stopped importing those products to Russia. The Belarusian Agricultural Ministry said the affected companies would have to overcome the veterinary violations to resume supplies to the market.
"In any case, Russia has been and will remain a priority market [for Belarus meat exporters]," said Marinich. "But to avoid any incidents, we must also be present in other markets. In 2015 our target is to supply 90% of our production to Russia and at least 10% to the other countries."