Tighter import laws set to cause Belarus perfume price hike

Minsk - Tighter import laws will increase the price of most perfumes used by Belarusian women by fifty per cent or more, the Belapan news agency reported Thursday.

New laws announced by the country's authoritarian leader President Aleksander Lukashenko make illegal the sale of foreign perfumes within the former Soviet republic, unless the retailer holds an import licence for the goods.

The decrees, set to go into effect next week, will practically ban all trade of perfume in the country, except by a few state-owned stores.

Belarusian women in recent years have overwhelmingly preferred French and Italian perfumes to scents manufactured in Belarus. Most often they have purchased their perfumes from private traders at open air markets.

'We are going to see an increase of the price of top market perfumes by at least fifty per cent, and the economy brands may disappear entirely,' said Anatoliy Shumchenko, a spokesman for the Perspektivi consumer rights group.

Knock-off perfumes manufactured in India or China copying major brand names are available in Belarus, but most Belarusian perfume users are willing to pay a premium price for the real article.

Lukashenko's government in recent months has embarked on a campaign to reduce domestic consumer spending on imported luxury goods, to improve national balance of payments.

The perfume decree is also in keeping with a Lukashenko policy of putting government pressure on small businessmen, one of the few sectors of Belarusian society openly critical of the former collective farm boss.

c 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur