Belarus President Makes Cheap Food Exports Conditional on Fixed Oil Price

Minsk, 18 July: Belarus could supply food and other products to CIS countries in exchange for cheap oil, [Belarusian President] Alyaksandr Lukashenka has said. He was speaking during a working visit to Mahilyow on 18 July, official sources have reported.

Otherwise it would not be advisable to artificially freeze food prices in the CIS, the president said.

He said that, at a recent meeting of CIS heads of state, amid a significant increase in food prices globally, some countries expressed a wish "that stable food prices should be set, with prices of bread, milk and meet being fixed" in the CIS. "I said to that: what stable prices? When energy resources began to increase in price in Russia, we suggested setting stable prices of oil and gas - but you did not agree to that. Now you want me to smother my own producers and to freeze food prices. This is not going to happen. The Ukrainian president [Viktor Yushchenko] supported me on this one," Lukashenka said.

He added that it is impossible to artificially contain food prices inside the country as well - in this case the food will simply be washed out to neighbouring countries: "We can overcome this situation by economic methods only, in particular by increasing salaries."

The president does not rule out that growing energy prices may eventually slow down while "prices of Belarusian goods will increase, so we will be better off".

Lukashenka also deems it necessary to diversify the sources of energy supplies. He said that if Belarus runs into problems with oil supplies from Russia, it may use oil extracted, for example, in Venezuela.

Originally published by Belapan news agency, Minsk, in Russian 1921 18 Jul 08.