Belarus migrant crisis disrupts goods supplies to Russia

FILE PHOTO: A military stands guard in the woods, close to the Milejczyce village, Poland, November 26 2021. REUTERS/Lukasz Glowala/File Photo

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The migrant crisis on the Belarus-Polish border has caused logistics problems for Russian food producers, who are suffering losses and risk having to temporarily stop production if the situation worsens.

Poland has closed several border crossings with Belarus for cargo transport as the European Union has accused Minsk of manufacturing a standoff with the West by pushing migrants, mostly from the Middle East, to illegally cross its borders.

Long tailbacks of trucks have formed at the four functioning Poland-Belarus border crossings out of a total of six. Lithuania's six crossings are open, the Belarusian border service says.

The trucks transport goods and raw materials to Belarus and to Russia where they are used by food producers.

At any one time there are 400-600 trucks at the crossings into Belarus from Poland, slowing down normal waiting times of 12-24 hours to 2-4 days, a Russian market source told Reuters.

That has driven up transport costs because every day spent waiting costs 500 euros. Using a different crossing route costs 300-400 euros, the source said.

The losses faced by Russian importers are so far not large, said another market source. They had been getting worse last week but improved slightly this week, the source said.

"If the situation gets worse, it threatens to break the supply chain and factories will grind to a standstill," the source said.

The tailbacks going in the opposite direction have already worsened, the source said.

A lobby group that includes Mars, Pepsi, Danone, Nestle, CocaCola, Metro, TetraPak appealed to the Russian government on Nov. 18 to intervene, a letter seen by Reuters showed.

"The continuation of the current situation could have a significant impact on supply chains and the availability of goods for the public, including essential goods, especially given the increased cargo volumes and heightened demand in the run-up to the New Year holidays," the group, the Foreign Investment Advisory Council, wrote.

Deputy Prime Ministr Andrey Belousov's office, to whom the letter was addressed, said it would look into the situation. The Transport Ministry declined to comment.

Around 10% of all Russia's imports pass through Belarus and Poland, the letter said.

Similar border tailbacks have built up on the Belarusian side of the border with the European Union, data from the Belarusian border service shows. There are 400-700 vehicles waiting at the border at any one moment, the data said.

(Reporting by Gleb Stolyarov; writing by Tom Balmforth; editing by Angus MacSwan)

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