MINSK, 19 January (BelTA) – Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko heard out a report of Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Subbotin and Forestry Minister Vitaly Drozhzha on 19 January , BelTA has learned.
“I have invited you to discuss the state of affairs in our main, fundamental industry. This is one of the mainstays of our economy,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed.
The president noted that forests cover about 40% of Belarus' territory, forests are the most valuable renewable resource. Since Belarus became an independent state, the area under forests has been expanded by almost 1 million hectares. “This suggests that we are not exploiters and that we cherish our nature, the resource that was given to us by the Lord,” the president said.
The head of state drew attention to the fact that Belarus is one of Europe's most forested countries. The volume of root and branch wood has reached almost 2 billion cubic meters. The share of mature and overmature forests has exceeded 20% of the total stock. “It is very important that we have restored what was lost in the time of the Soviet Union, when all commercial timber (I remember that) was taken outside the country by train, it was chopped, transported, shipped to Germany or Romania and returned to Belarus in the form of furniture. Back then the share of mature forests was 3%, today it is 20%,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
According to him, the forestry industry operates steadily in the face of the pandemic. Like agriculture, the woodworking industry performed well last year. “Your contribution is huge, after all, forest is the source, raw material for that. You seem to have done a good job in addressing the waste processing problems and tasks that I set for you. We had a lot of bark beetles in recent years, we had to cut down a lot of trees in preventive action. We set up pellet factories, began to produce this most valuable fuel. As you report, all the products entered into contracts, these enterprises posted profits. These products will always sell well,” the president said.
The head of state noted that low-quality timber is in demand both abroad and in the domestic market. “We need to meet our own demand for timber in order to replace natural gas for heating. Why are we burning imported resources, while this huge resource is right under our feet? Therefore, I absolutely support your proposal to determine how much firewood, pellets and wood chips to procure for domestic needs. We must use wood to heat houses, villages, agro-towns. We have enough of this renewable resource. This way we can reduce the consumption of gas, for which we pay a lot of money,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
The economic indicators of the forestry sector remain stable. There are no loss-making organizations, and revenues are more than twice the amount of budget funding. “This is a very good result. This is what we dreamed about 15-20 years ago,” the head of state said.
The president added that the state and prospects of the forestry industry should be discussed not only in a narrow circle, but at a larger-scale meeting.
According to the forestry minister, today the ratio of forest land to total land area in Belarus is close to optimal. In the postwar years it was about 21%, while now it exceeds 40%. “As to the composition of Belarusian forests, pines account for almost 55%, birches nearly 19%, spruces 11%,” Vitaly Drozhzha said.
He informed that the production of planting material increased. He also invited the president to visit a new nursery complex at the national forest selection and seed production center. Russian partners have already seen and praised it. “It boasts cutting-edge technology for growing planting material. We have made great strides here – 50% of replanted forest trees in Belarus are trees that underwent selective breeding. In other words, geneticists and breeders are already involved in the process,” the minister added.
After the meeting Vitaly Drozhzha told reporters about the forestry industry performance. “Last year's performance is quite good. We posted the highest revenues and export on record. We pay salaries on time and keep increasing them. There are no loss-making organizations in the industry. The economic performance is rather good,” he said.
According to the minister, the president set a task to continue increasing the use of all available wood resources and building facilities to produce fuel pellets. “This implies another task - to reconsider once again the use of local fuels, which are a renewable resource. In the near future, the approaches to using gas as a fuel will be revised. We will calculate the feasibility of the decision to switch from gas to wood chips, pellets, briquettes and so on, and appropriate decisions will be made,” Vitaly Drozhzha said.
Answering a question from BelTA, the minister said that Belarus is dealing with the problem of conifer bark beetles quite successfully. The area under the affected forests has decreased about three times. “We believe that this problem has been resolved, we have dealt with it,” the minister emphasized.