Belarus starts own potash sales, wants old cartel back

MINSK Fri Oct 11, 2013 10:20am EDT

MINSK Oct 11 (Reuters) - Belarus has started selling potash on its own after the break-up of its trading alliance with Russia's Uralkali, President Alexander Lukashenko said on Friday, urging the two sides to put the lucrative partnership back together again.

Uralkali caused a row between Russia and Belarus when it unexpectedly pulled out of a sales cartel with state-run Belaruskali in July, rocking the global potash industry and threatening Belarus with financial losses.

"(We) must immediately return to this fertiliser cartel," Lukashenko told a news conference in Minsk, which was broadcast by state radio.

Belarus had earned $150 million from its own potash sales since the break-up of the cartel and expected about $200 million in October, Lukashenko added, without naming buyers or volumes.

The soil nutrient accounts for 12 percent of the state revenue of Belarus and about 10 percent of export income and the collapse of the cartel angered Lukashenko.

Uralkali is the world's largest potash producer and the cartel accounted for 40 percent of the world market.

One month after the cartel collapsed, Belarus detained the chief executive of Uralkali, Vladislav Baumgertner, during a visit to Minsk and he is still under house arrest.

Russian and international media have speculated that the main owner of Uralkali, Suleiman Kerimov, may be under pressure to sell his stake so the cartel can re-form.

"I would lock Kerimov and the other owners in a cell, and they would sell all the assets, like good boys, at the highest price. I would find them a buyer," Lukashenko said.

Baumgertner was originally charged with abuse of office, but a charge of embezzlement had now been added, Lukashenko said.

The executive could in theory now face up to 12 years in jail if convicted of all the charges against him.

Lukashenko said the top Russian prosecutor should come to Minsk and take Baumgertner to Moscow for an investigation, but said no request had come from the Russian side so far.

Lukashenko stuck to his view Belarusalkali was worth $30 billion and repeated he had in the past been offered a bribe to sell it cheaply.

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