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No room for tsinandali on the Chinese wine market?

By M. Alkhazashvili

(Translated by Diana Dundua)
Wednesday, December 19
Tbilisi has been seeking alternative foreign wine export markets ever since Moscow imposed an embargo on Georgian mineral water and wine in March 2006. The following month, then-president Mikheil Saakashvili discussed Georgian wine exports with Chinese businessmen and government officials on his first state visit to Beijing.

“We are doing all we can to increase commercial turnover between the two countries,” stated Liu Xiaohui, head of the trade and economic section of the Chinese Embassy in Georgia, late last year. However, it appears that China has been the main beneficiary of stepped-up bilateral trade. Annual Chinese imports doubled in Georgia in 2006 with Georgian consumers snapping up an influx of Chinese products at bargain prices, according to a Public Radio Armenia report.

On the other hand, only one company, Taro Wine, exports Georgian wine to China, most of which ends up on Shanghai supermarket shelves with price tags of USD 4–6 a bottle. Over the first six months of 2006 wine exports amounted to a mere USD 36 000.

Despite claims from government officials last year that this trend was about to change, 2007 figures suggest the trade imbalance remains the same. So far this year, total trade exports from Georgia to China reached USD 6.4 million, whereas imports were USD 164.7 million, the newspaper Ekonomikuri Palitra reports.