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Georgian Wines and Waters to Return to Russian Market by End of Year?

By Salome Modebadze
Wednesday, October 19
Russian media agencies released reports that Georgian wines and mineral waters may return to the Russian market after a four year embargo. Having banned Georgian wines in 2006, the Russian Chief Sanitarian Gennady Onishenko told that seven Georgian producers have already addressed him with “official proposals”. The particular date for starting cooperation is as yet unknown, but according to the Russian media, this process might start before the end of 2011.

As Onishenko told journalists last Wednesday, those seven producers expressed their readiness to start providing the Russian sanitary service with samples of their products. “I have received an official suggestion from those entrepreneurs who wish to enter our market. Please, come and join our market, you are already familiar with the preconditions,” Onishenko said. The Russian side demands that Georgian wine and mineral waters pass strict checks to prove its quality. According to information spread by the media, ROSPOTERBNADZOR – the official Russian institution for product inspection - is also considering the return to the Russian markets of the Georgian mineral water Borjomi.

“We would like to see your productions as we haven’t seen them for so long. The sanitary service will keep samples of wines, and you would register them”, the head of ROSPOTERBNADZOR, Onishenko, said to the Georgian side. Despite these positive comments, the Georgian side has been hesitant to restore cooperation. Claiming that Russia does not feel any particular need for Georgian wine and mineral waters, Onishenko advised the Georgian producers to “stop playing games”. Explaining that “everything depends on the Georgian producers” he welcomed the possible market cooperation but warned the Georgians of “harsh terms.” was concerned about the “sad story” of Borjomi water which should have restarted the provision of the mineral water to the Russian market from September, 2011. According to the information released by the company responsible, IDS Borjomi International, Borjomi mineral water fully complies with the requirements of all applicable laws and regulations not only in Russia, but the European Union. As the PR Department of IDS Borjomi International told The Messenger no negotiations have started between the sides as of yet.

According to an official statement released by the Corporate Affairs Department of IDS Borjomi International they have all the technological and legal capabilities to satisfy the demand for Borjomi water on the Russian market. As of this moment, delivery of Borjomi mineral water to Russia is not possible due to the absence of permission from ROSPOTERBNADZOR.

In 2006, Georgia encountered a serious economical threat from a Russian embargo against its wines and mineral waters, but Georgia managed to carry out marketing efforts to reenter the world market. As the Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said earlier this year, the embargo has done a good job in terms of raising the quality of Georgian wine products. “Now we are in a position where if [the Russians] let our wines onto their markets, it will be good, but if they do not, it is not a big deal – the market is all over the world,” the president stated.

The Minister of Agriculture of Georgia Bakur Kvezereli said there is no sense in listening to the Russian Chief Sanitarian. Commenting on Onishenko’s statement on October 18, the Press Service of the Ministry said they have no information about the seven wine producers who plan to cooperate with the Russian side. As a matter of a fact, cooperation with the Russian market does not seem to be in the Georgian government’s nearest plans.