Lukashenko aims to mobilise Belarus children to harvest potatoes

Belarus: Lukashenko discusses mobilisation to harvest potatoes

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In a move similar to that seen during the USSR-era, in the former Soviet Union, Aleksandr Lukashenko has said children should be put to work, harvesting vegetables in a bid to bring more money to Belarus. The ally of Vladimir Putin explained that Belarusian children would benefit from the physical activity of up to six hours of work and simultaneously make their parents happy.

Earlier this month, Lukashenko said middle school pupils, aged 10 to 15 years old, could harvest potatoes, beetroot, and flaxseed like they did “back in his day”. 

Speaking in Minsk on October 3, Lukashenko told how the move would unite the Belarusian people. He said: “Mobilise university students, workers, public employees, other people, to help us harvest everything. We can earn good money. 

“We are prohibited from assigning middle school pupils to harvest apples or potatoes, beets and linen – like we did back in the day. I can’t imagine anything more absurd. 

“This unites the people, makes them learn. Modern entrepreneurs are willing to pay good money, for the harvesting of apples or potatoes. Five or six hours of work would make the parents happy and the child would get good physical activity.”

The 68-year-old described it as “savagery” that children were not being used to help. 

Belarus is currently struggling with a food pricing problem due to sanctions imposed by the West due to Lukashenko’s allyship with Putin. The UK Government has imposed regulations on aircraft, shipping, and trade. 

The Belarusian leader, who has been in power since 1994 and is the country’s first and only President, was formerly a director of a farm or a “sovkhoz”, owned by the state during the Soviet Union.

He was the boss of a farm in the village of Gorodets, two hours from the capital of Minsk. Tamara Krotikova, who worked on the farm when the president was the manager in the late Eighties, told the BBC in 2008 that he was a “strict boss, but a good man”.

During the time of the Soviet Union, which spanned much of Eurasia from 1922 to 1991, both soldiers and students were used to harvest potatoes and cabbages. Schoolchildren would work from morning until lunchtime, often taking home a bucket full of carrots when they finished work. 

One farm supervisor, speaking to the Washington Post, said: “The children are helping us save the carrots. Without them, almost all the carrots would stay in the fields.”

Potato is a staple in the Belarusian diet as it has been reported that the country gets through an estimated 180kg of potatoes every day.

According to head of Crop Farming of the Belarusian Agriculture and Food Ministry, Nikolai Leshik, 300,000 tonnes of Belarusian potatoes are exported every year. Not only this, but Leshik said in July that Belarus also grows around 170,000 tonnes of apples each year.  

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In his address, Lukashenko added: “Mobilise everyone, it is reported to me that in our secondary school it is forbidden to involve school children to pick up apples, or as we used to do: potatoes, beetroot, flax and so on.

“I cannot imagine greater savagery… We somehow try to educate our schoolchildren, our children. What will you use? Talking? You can’t educate them by talking.

“We went to the potato harvest in September, students and so on. This unites people brings them together, they understand and what it is.

“So mobilise students, workers, civil servants, other people to help us remove it all because we can earn good money, not now but by Spring. Look out for stabilisation funds, so that people have something to eat, so that prices of potatoes and carrots, beets, which we produce do not rise up.

“We shall sort out the prices of imported goods, the main thing is that our similar products should be under control as regards the pricing. Do what we can this year, please get involved and finish the agricultural year with dignity.”

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