Russia has banned wine imports from Montenegro's state-owned wine producer Plantaze, allegedly for failing to meet safety requirementss, Russian consumer watchdog Rospotrebnadzor announced.
Montenegro's authorities, however, believe that the ban was politically motivated due to the country's expected accession to Nato – Montenegro is due to become a full Nato member later this year and the parliament in Podgorica is expected to ratify the Nato accession treaty on April 28.
"Rospotrebnadzor found 24 samples of alcoholic beverages by Plantaze that did not meet safety requirements in the field of consumer protection and sanitary and epidemiological welfare of the population," the watchdog said in a statement on its website on April 26. The research is said to have revealed concentrations of the pesticides metalaxyl and particle plastic diphtalata at unsafe levels.
According to Rospotrebnadzor, Plantaze has not provided any information to address the [claimed] violations of the safety requirements. However, Plantaze responded in a statement on April 26 saying that the Russian decision was taken without any warnings and was aimed to damage the company's business interests, not only in Russia, but also on Plantaze's other markets. Around 20% of Plantaze's exports are to Russia but it also exports wine to 42 other countries.
Montenegrino's biggest wine maker also said that it had already conducted tests on samples of the wine in Montenegro and abroad that showed that all harmful substances allegedly found by the Russian laboratory were at normal levels with some parameters being 100 times smaller compared to Russia's official findings.
Montenegrin Prime Minister Dusko Markovic said that the Russian decision to ban Montenegrin wine is motivated by Podgorica's decision to join Nato, according to the media. Moscow had sought to prevent Montenegro from joining Nato but, has given up the battle now since almost all Nato members have already approved its membership.
Instead, Moscow seems to be resorting to damaging the country's tourism by branding the country as 'unsafe'. Tourism is an important contributer to the country's GDP and around one quarter of tourists visiting Montenegro come from Russia. But the campaign does not seem to have been effective as, according to news provider N1, the numbers of Russian tourists visiting or booked to visit Montenegro is two to three times higher compared with the previous year.
In cooperation with the Russian distributor of the wine, Plantaze has engaged a team of lawyers in Moscow to complain about the decision with the first hearing scheduled for the end of May.
“It is worrying that the decision to ban the wine by Russian authorities was taken before the conclusion of the court process at which an independent analysis of wine samples should be presented,” Plantaze said.
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