Belarus moves to save potash producer amid Russia feud

5th September 2013, Comments 0 comments

Belarus announced measures on Thursday to help prop up its national potash producer after a rupture with its Russian partner threw the fertiliser sector into disarray.

President Alexander Lukashenko signed a decree freeing Belaruskali from customs duties for its exports of potash, a key component of fertiliser, and gave it a tax holiday "to insure the stability of its operations", according to his office.

Belarus recently allowed Belaruskali to begin exporting directly, whereas it had previously been tied into a partnership with Russian potash company Uralkali.

At the end of July Uralkali pulled out of the cartel-like system with Belaruskali, threatening a possible crash in global prices of the mineral and sending share prices of fertiliser companies tumbling.

Belaruskali, a state-held company, is one of the champions of the Belarussian economy, providing about 10 percent of government revenue.

Despite its dependence on Belaruskali, as well as cheap Russian energy imports and credits, the Belarussian government has not backed down.

On August 28 it arrested Uralkali chief executive of Vladislav Baumgertner, who had visited Minsk to meet Prime Minister Mikhail Myasnikovich to try to resolve the dispute.

Belarussian investigators claim to have uncovered a scheme hatched by Baumgertner and other Uralkali managers to embezzle $100 million.

On Monday, Belarus charged the billionaire owner of Russian football club Anzhi Makhachkala, Suleiman Kerimov, who has a 20 percent holding in Uralkali, as part of its criminal probe.

© 2013 AFP

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