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How cucumbers and red berry help Belarusian villagers live

Let us return to "our bananas", which Alexander Lukashenko jokingly referred to. Although for Ecuador's ambassador this phrase could be shocking since Ecuador is a major supplier of bananas to Belarus. And knowing what watermelons President Lukashenko grows personally on his beds (Belarus is not an especially sunny country) why not think about this tropical fruit? In Belarus, there is nothing impossible, after all. For example, Belarusian strawberries are bought even by our southern neighbors who say with pleasure that domestic berries are better than those from Krasnodar. Is it so? Our correspondent Olga Petrashevskaya found out the answer in strawberry and cucumber regions of Belarus and tasted the first harvest.

Olshany is the only place in Belarus where green cucumbers (almost like greenback) is the hardest currency. An amusement park comes to this village and is not afraid of losing profits, which means locals are not without money. Their living room is a greenhouse. All rural life here rests on cucumbers, which are exported mainly to Russia.

Piotr Bagan:
These cucumbers will be exported to the Russian Federation. I've got a buddy there who's been working for 15 years. Do Russians love our cucumbers? Sure. Ours are without nitrates, everything is according to highest class and fine.

And nothing would have disturbed the idyll of business except for sudden drastic changes in prices for cucumbers. Local laws of business here are strict: only the strongest survives.

Vladimir Andrusevich, Olshany villager:
Hard work is behind this money. Here work not only adults but also children. For example, it is necessary to cover the greenhouse. In the morning, when there is no wind, we begin to cover them. Kids sometimes are not allowed to school until they finish this work.

On a good day, this greenhouse brings a ton of cucumbers. But Vladimir has something to say to those who have got used to counting others' profits.

Vladimir Andrusevich, Olshany villager:
They come to us, look at houses and say we are rich. They are jealous. But when I tell them more about our daily life, they say they would not like to work that hard.

Here is another village of Belarus which lives well thanks to a local crop. The village Dvorets abounds with strawberries.

Olga Gurbanovich, Dvorets villager:
I am in the field from morning till dawn. Then we sell the berries. We would not be able to live without this land.

Olga says this year's harvest is beautiful and profitable: she was able to earn enough to go to a dentist. The hard-working family has huge plans for the entire plantation.

Olga Gurbanovich, Dvorets villager:
We have built houses to both our sons. We have installed windows, which cost us BYR17 million. We also need doors and we plan to buy them too. So berries are everything for us.

Here, a woman with empty buckets is a great sign meaning that business is up and running. The local market is a kind of transit point, from which berries go to every corner of Belarus and beyond.

A resident of the Dvorets village:
I would like BYR15,000 per kilo. But I am offered only BYR 12,000-13,000 million. I'm disgusted. After all, we took care about it during the whole year, we were toiling.

Villagers are also outraged because they know at what price their berries will be resold in markets in other cities. A kilogram bought in the Brest region for BYR 12,000-15,000 will be resold in Vitebsk already for over BYR35,000 and in Minsk the price reaches about BYR40,000-50,000. This is the difference for only one kilogram. Imagine what profits a private trader gets selling hundreds of kilograms per day.

Some berries are exported from Belarus to other countries.

Dmitry:
It will be shipped to Russia. They are cheaper than Polish berries by about 50%.

Magomed is engaged in direct deliveries. The businessman came from Russia to load the whole truck with Belarusian strawberries. He will then take the cargo to sell in Voronezh and Moscow.

Magomed Sultanov, businessman (Russia):
Why is it good? It is of higher quality, it survives transportation better and it is generally better than that from Krasnodar.

There are not enough benches for strawberry traders at local markets so competition is really high and you can find the price you need. For these villagers strawberries are really strategic products.

Alexander Dragun, head of a farm:
First of all, you need to love your land. These seedlings say: 'Help us, master.' And I have to help them, since they are like my kids. Any land can serve your needs; we can do anything on it. The main thing is desire.

Alexander delivers currants to Russia and plans to build a plant to freeze berries. His business is growing too.

So it goes: some just get berries out of nothing and some have to toil to get decent money. But it is ordinary villagers who are behind these strawberries and cucumbers at city markets in Belarus and Russia. Their hands are black from earth but you definitely cannot call them dirty.

How cucumbers and red berry help Belarusian villagers live