UK trade mission to Belarus opens frontiers to new business opportunities
This guest blog post is by the Embassy of Belarus in the UK
On 17-20 June 2018, a UK Timber Trade Delegation visited Belarus. The mission was organised by the Embassy of Belarus in the UK, with the information supported by the UK Timber Trade Federation (TTF). The Belarusian Universal Commodity Exchange hosted the visit and fully covered the stay in Belarus, while the UK Department for International Trade was listed among the partners of the project.
Four UK companies took part in the mission, three of whom are members of the TTF. During the event, the UK Delegation was introduced to the export sales system of sawnwood in Belarus. They met Belarusian timber industry decision makers, including members of the government, leadership of the Belarusian Universal Commodity Exchange (the only organisation in Belarus authorised for export of sawnwood from sawmills), CEOs of Belarusian sawmills, traders and market experts; they visited five woodworking factories and mills, along with forests and nursery garden.
The visit began with an extended meeting with the Chairman of the Belarusian Production and Trade, concerning of timber, woodworking, pulp and the paper industry “Bellesbumprom” (grouping around 50 Belarusian woodworking companies). A number of representatives of Belarusian mills were also attending the roundtable.
Lawrence Webster, Kullik & Rullmann AG, said: “Very impressed, so many top Belarusian businessmen turned out to meet us. It is clear they want to deal with the UK which is a good thing when developing business.”
At the “Belarusian universal commodity exchange” UK partners had an introduction training seminar on online auctions of sawn timber products.
Eddie Smith, Quality Timber Ltd, said: “I am not an I.T. expert but the set up is impressive and the introduction to the system which we were given was done very competently and in such a way that even I could grasp the essentials.”
The seminar was followed by the meeting with the Chairman of the BUCE Arkady Salikov to discuss direct timber trade potential.
Eddie Smith, Quality Timber Ltd, said “The Chairman greeted us warmly and his Assistant Directors had gone to a lot of effort to help us with every step of our visit. Questions were answered promptly and frankly.”
Peter Carter, Carter Turner Ltd, added: “The meeting confirmed the importance of the visit for us all; As one of the visitors, I am keen in co-operating and helping each other reach our mutual benefit.”
After the meeting, around 15 Belarusian companies were invited to the Belarusian Universal Commodity Exchange for a B2B session with the UK Delegation.
Peter Carter, Carter Turner Ltd, commented: “The meeting was excellent and productive, especially the session with Profitsystem, but other opportunities too. Not enough time for this effective model.”
Eddie Smith, Quality Timber Ltd, added: “I was impressed with the effort which had been put into inviting additional potential suppliers to the meeting. I was pleased that BUCE organised this so efficiently – and provided excellent translation services as well!”
UK companies were greeted by Her Majesty Ambassador of the UK, Ms Fionna Gibb, during the evening reception, hosted by the UK Embassy in Minsk. A number of Belarusian companies were invited, including members of the Association of Furniture and Woodworking industries of Belarus.There are no photos with those IDs or post 25850 does not have any attached images!
Dmitry Sudas, Senior Counselor, Trade and Economy Group of the Embassy of the Republic of Belarus, commented:“I am very grateful to the Her Majesty UK Ambassador in Minsk Ms Fionna Gibb for receiving the UK Timber Trade Delegation. This proves a very good model of cooperation of both embassies– we support each other, helping to host delegations, showing that we are taking care of each potential partner.”
“This process helps build a trustworthy and mutually beneficial relation. We believe that our cooperation will continue and grow. To this end we are planning to organise more trade missions in the future in order to unviel opportunities in Belarus to the UK businesses.”
During the two-day visit, the UK Delegation also visited the forests nursery garden in the town of Borisov and were acquainted with the three woodworking companies (“Molodechnomebel”, Vi-lario mill, the largest woodworking mill in Belarus – JSC “Borisovski DOK“). They also visited two forestry mills: Borisov Forestry and Vileika Forestry.
Eddie Smith, Quality Timber Ltd, said: “I am not a “forestry” expert but I have to day that the set up looked very professional and well organised. Moreover, I am sure my colleagues in Softwood trading will be pleased to see that Belarus is visibly complying with International Standard Practice, so that they can assure their clients that Belarus timber is sustainably sourced.”
Lawrence Webster, Kullik & Rullmann AG, said: “This sort of thing is always interesting for me and I appreciated this leg of the journey. Reforestation is the key to a successful timber industry.”
Peter Carter, Carter Turner Ltd, commented: “Very impressive quality and attention to detail; Present styles wouldn’t probably suit the UK market, but the company seems capable of moulding products designs tailored to UK tastes.”
Peter Carter, Carter Turner Ltd, said: “A very impressive company, we would be very happy to trade with them.”
Eddie Smith, Quality Timber Ltd, added: “It was immediately obvious to all of us, as soon as we got out of the car, that in this mill they knew what they were doing. The first thing we saw was that they had a big stack of packs, wrapped for export (nicely) and ready to go. The mill was a hive of activity. I know my colleagues underlined some points they felt should be corrected, concerning end-trimming etc, but the overall impression we had was very positive.”
Vi-lario Mill visit
Borisov Forestry Mill visitThere are no photos with those IDs or post 25850 does not have any attached images!
Vileika Forestry Mill visitThere are no photos with those IDs or post 25850 does not have any attached images!
Of course, not everything was perceived positively by the UK Delegation. Visitors pointed out some weak points of the Belarusian sawmill industry, along with giving useful advises for accelerating the process of establishing a regular trade between Belarus and the UK.
Lawrence Webster, Kullik & Rullmann AG, commented: “It was a good trip and I want to thank once again our hosts for all their efforts. There is a long hill to climb to get the Belarusian mills in line with the Scandinavian or even the Baltic quality/ production. While the raw material is good, many Belarusian mills aren’t yet able to complete simple processes like cross cutting or kilning to the standard the UK market expects and is used to.
“Nonetheless, the mills are FSC certified, they have plenty of logs and they can cut hem to the sizes & lengths required for our market.”
Martin Gillingham, MJ Gillingham, added: “I express my sincere thanks to our hosts for a highly informative and interesting visit to Belarus. I hope you found it as rewarding as I know we did.”
The visit ended with a farewell dinner arranged by the Belarusian Universal Commodity Exchange in a fashionable restaurant – ‘The View’ – at the 28th floor of a business skyscraper in the centre of Minsk.There are no photos with those IDs or post 25850 does not have any attached images!
Dmitry Sudas, Senior Counselor, Trade and Economy Group of the Embassy of the Republic of Belarus and the brains behind the journey, took stock of the initiative: “The mission was a logical continuation of the seminar “Timber: doing business in Belarus”, jointly hosted with the Timber Trade Federation during Timber Expo 2017,” explained Dmitry. “The Mission was focused on exploring sawn softwood direct supplies from Belarus to the UK. We know that much of Belarusian timber goes to the UK through the Baltics countries.
There is a historical fact that owners of English dockyards in XIX century used to build ships with Belarusian spruce and pines, harvested in the Białowieża Forest – immense primeval forest, stretched across Belarus and Poland. Timber, harvested in Belarus, was floated in large quantities down the Western Dvina River (Daugava) into the Gulf of Riga. Therefore, British shipbuilders simply thought that the timber used for the construction of ships was sourced in the Baltic countries.
Even now, UK companies are surprised that stock of sawn timber bought from Latvia or other Baltic countries, is actually of Belarusian origin. Brexit is a little bit changing situation. It is a right time to study direct trade and extend suppliers list outside the EU. Our mission here is to help establish direct and reliable contacts. We would like UK timber importers to fully evaluate possibilities and opportunities of doing business in Belarus. Finally UK timber companies are free to decide in which way they want to conduct the process – either stay on current positions or try to establish direct links with the Belarusian sawmill industry.”
“Thanks to this trade mission to Belarus, UK timber traders had the opportunity to learn about Belarusian timber market, establish new contacts and visit Belarus, a country that remains a blank spot on the map for many UK businesses. The organisers made all the efforts to ensure the visit was effective and successful for each participant. Belarus is now quickly moving in the right direction for establishing links with UK business. For example, the Belarusian Forestry Company is set to become soon the first ever international associate member of the Timber Trade Federation.
“We are ready to move forward, organising further trade missions in close cooperation with the TTF and DIT with a focus on wide range of timber and panel products.”
“Finally, we found another unexpected but very positive outcome of this mission as the Ministry of Forestry of the Republic of Belarus expressed his interest in establishing a cooperation with the UK Forestry Commission in order to share best practices in forests renovation. This noble intention should be definitely supported.”
 Belarusian Forestry Newspaper, 10 March 2016, № 10 (1084), http://lesgazeta.by/people/iz–prirodnyh–materialov/dlja-izgotovlenija-machty-korablestroiteli-ispolzovali-el
[Published on behalf of the Embassy of Belarus in the UK]