|The chief natural resource of Belarus is lumber
from the abundant forests in the region. Wood is used to make furniture
and charcoal. Peat, the other major resource, is used as fuel in power
stations and in household fireplaces and stoves.
The countryside is still dominated by the collective farm system instituted in Stalin's time. Farms are large and state-owned, and many families work on them. The farms produce potatoes, buckwheat, rye, sugar beets, flax, and dairy products. Individual families cultivate small plots of land to grow vegetables or raise a few pigs, chickens, and cows for their own use. Because of fallout from the Chernobyl disaster, thousands of acres in the fertile regions of the south cannot be used for agriculture. Nevertheless, Belarus continues to be a major producer of food.
During the Soviet regime, Belarus became industrialized. Factories for heavy machinery such as trucks and machine tools were built in the 1970s. In the 1980s, factories for assembling motorcycles, electronics and computers were established. Belarus was also an important part of the defence system of the Soviet Union. Armaments factories were built and the forests provided shelter for nuclear weapons installations. Today, Belarus's industries include chemical processing, food processing, shoe manufacturing, furniture, textiles, and wood and timber processing. Pipelines run through Belarus, transporting oil from Russia to the refineries in the north.
The dissolution of the Soviet Union increased the price of raw materials and reduced the traditional market for goods. Belarus is sometimes unable to afford the raw materials needed to keep its industries going. These problems have caused job shortages, food rationing and line-ups for subsidized food.
Before the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the prices of goods were tightly regulated. Now price fixing has been eliminated. However, food prices are lower in Belarus than in other regions, and many people buy food in Belarus to sell in Russia. Russians also come to Belarus simply to buy food.