Belarus Inhales Russian Cigarettes

// Belarus opens its market for Russian cigarettes

Beginning from April 1, Belarusian market might be opened for unlimited import of cigarettes produced in Russia. Canceling the quotas on cigarette import to Belarus is one of the conditions of Moscow-Minsk bilateral agreement which might be signed already on March 1. However, import quotas is just one of the barriers preventing the sales of Russian cigarettes in Belarus from rising.

Belarus has had quotas on cigarette import since 1997. Since 2001, it has been allowed to import only cigarettes costing over $0.26 per pack. In 2002, 4.103 billion cigarettes were imported to Belarus, in 2003 - 3 billion, in 2004 - 3.6 billion, in 2005 - 3.07 billion. Setting the quota for 2006, Belarusian government said it will be 1.5 billion cigarettes, with the total amount of market being 18 billion.

Beginning from April 1, import quotas might be canceled within the implementation of the agreement between Russian and Belarusian prime ministers Mikhail Fradkov and Sergei Sidorsky. If the agreement is signed on March 1 as planned, then the cigarette quotas will be cancelled already by April 1.

Tobacco companies say the lifting of quotas will be good for the business. However, it does not guarantee the free import of cigarettes to Belarus, since there exist other restrictions. For instance, every importer of cigarettes has to obtain a license in the cou8ntry's trade ministry. Yet, Russia's Ministry of Economic Development and Trade said that it "regards such licenses as administrative obstacles for trade" and promised to "insist that they are cancelled".