Belarus says no more grain imports, anticipates better crop

by Teresa Acklin
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   MINSK, BELARUS — Belarus, which had a disastrous grain harvest last year, will stop importing grain for “economic and political” reasons and is hoping for a better crop this year, top officials said recently.

   Alexander Lukashenko, an outspoken critic of the West, told a government meeting, “We should not bow to the West and beg for money or buy their wheat.” Agriculture Minister Yuri Moroz said the government was expecting a grain harvest of 7 million tonnes in 1999. Last year, Belarus gathered just 5.9 million tonnes, compared with 6.3 million in 1997.

   Mr. Moroz said the country would be in a “very difficult situation” if it did not harvest 7 million tonnes of grain this year. However, Mr. Lukashenko stressed that Belarus should achieve self-sufficiency in food this year, and even form a strategic reserve of food stuffs.