Let a Hun­dred Projects Blos­som

Economy of Belarus - - UNION STATE -

Since the found­ing of the Union State Be­larus and Rus­sia have im­ple­mented 50 sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy pro­grams with a to­tal bud­get of over RUB25 bil­lion. The two coun­tries have ac­cu­mu­lated a wealth of ex­pe­ri­ence and achieved ex­cel­lent re­sults. The pro­grams cover di­verse ar­eas from re­mote sens­ing of the Earth and nanos­truc­tural elec­tron­ics to de­vel­op­ment of drugs from lacto­fer­rin and cul­ti­va­tion of pota­toes and ar­ti­choke. Ideas for co­op­er­a­tion abound. In May, the Union State gov­ern­ment ap­proved four new sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy pro­grams. Among them are Tech­nol­ogy-sg, Luch, Au­to­elec­tron­ics and a project for the de­vel­op­ment of a uni­fied sys­tem of tech­ni­cal sup­port of rail­ways. At the same time, there are a lot of in­ter­est­ing con­cepts that can be­come a re­al­ity in the near future. For ex­am­ple, these in­clude the pro­grams Flax and DNA Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion.

Flax

The first pro­gram Flax pro­vides for a com­pre­hen­sive up­grade of li­nen mills in Be­larus and Rus­sia. De­spite the fact that flax has al­ways been per­ceived as an in­her­ently Slavic crop, the in­dus­try is cur­rently not in its best shape both in Rus­sia and Be­larus. In the early 20th cen­tury, Rus­sia was the world’s lead­ing pro­ducer of flax li­nen and re­lated prod­ucts. The gross har­vest of raw flax ex­ceeded 350,000 tonnes by 1990. Since then it has fallen 3.5 times to un­der 100,000 tonnes. So the pro­gram came in timely. Its bud­get made up more than RUB2.5 bil­lion. By the way, there was al­ready a pro­gram in the Union State aimed at de­vel­op­ing the flax in­dus­try. Al­though it was poorly fi­nanced, only 27% of its needs were cov­ered, it still gave pos­i­tive re­sults through­out the flax- pro­duc­tion chain. For ex­am­ple, sci­en­tists and en­gi­neers of the two coun­tries came up with good so­lu­tions to up­grade the tra­di­tional flax pro­cess­ing tech­nolo­gies. Be­laru­sian en­ter­prises teamed up with Rus­sian me­chan­i­cal en­gi­neers to pro­duce flax turn­ers. Trial sam­ples of flax har­vest­ing equip­ment were tested in the fields of Dubrovno flax fac­tory and proved their worth. Still that was clearly not enough. Cot­ton man­u­fac­tur­ers from Cen­tral Asia took ad­van­tage of the sit­u­a­tion and swiftly gob­bled up the ap­parel, ta­ble and bed li­nen mar­ket. How­ever, the sit­u­a­tion with cot­ton is not so rosy ei­ther.

Sow­ing and ge­netic po­ten­tial of cot­ton plants was ex­hausted long ago, as ev­i­denced by the rapid, more than 3.5 times, in­crease in cot­ton prices over the last three years. Search is cur­rently un­der­way for al­ter­na­tive raw ma­te­ri­als, and flax is one of the op­tions. “The sit­u­a­tion in the mar­ket is such that Rus­sia and Be­larus could re­gain their lost ground in the world flax mar­ket by in­te­grat­ing their sci­en­tific, agri­cul­tural and in­dus­trial ca­pac­i­ties,” said Galina Shan­banovich, a se­nior re­searcher with the flax prod­ucts qual­ity lab­o­ra­tory at the Flax In­sti­tute of the National Academy of Sciences of Be­larus.

Flax cul­ti­va­tion gets sup­port at the state and in­ter­state level through tar­geted pro­grams in many coun­tries: Saxon Flax (Ger­many), Scan­di­na­vian Flax (France, Den­mark, Swe­den), South African Flax. The United States started cul­ti­vat­ing flax only 10 years ago but has been ac­tively ramp­ing up the out­put. How­ever, the ex­pe­ri­ence of Be­larus and Rus­sia in this in­dus­try, fa­vor­able cli­mate, con­ve­nient trans­porta­tion links with Europe, the sta­ble de­mand for or­ganic and eco goods are good pre­req­ui­sites for the Slavic north­ern silk to win a good share of the global mar­ket. A cu­ri­ous fact, the Ro­mans called flax “the best of the fruits of the Earth”. Flax does not con­tam­i­nate soils. Nor does it ac­cu­mu­late ra­dionu­clides, ei­ther in its fibers or in seeds. Mean­while, ex­pand­ing the ar­eas un­der cot­ton is al­most im­pos­si­ble, as it might pro­voke an­other en­vi­ron­men­tal dis­as­ter. In Cen­tral Asia, for ex­am­ple, this led to the dis­ap­pear­ance of the Aral Sea.

The Union State is lag­ging be­hind the world’s lead­ing flax producers, as there are prob­lems

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