Russia reintroduces limits on Georgian wine imports

By bne IntelliNews October 9, 2013

bne -

Russian consumer watchdog Rospotrebnadzor has banned the import of wines from seven Georgian producers. The ban comes just months after Russia allowed imports of Georgian wine and mineral water following a seven-year suspension, and as the small Caucasus country prepares to strengthen ties with the EU.

Rospotrebnadzor announced on October 8 that it has banned a total of 28 alcoholic beverages from Georgia. "It makes us again cast doubt over the Georgian side's willingness to build long-term stable and civilized relations, which in substance can only be based on stability of quality of wine products," Rospotrebnadzor head Gennady Onishchenko, told Interfax.

Onishchenko also appeared to warn that Moscow may yet reverse its decision to allow Georgian producers back in the Russian market. That earlier move was made amid a warming of relations between the two countries following the election of the Georgian Dream coalition in October 2012.

"Such abundance of negative conclusions shows that not all Georgian winemakers have learned a lesson from the situation that persisted for many years ... It gives us all the reason for a possible revision of our attitude towards the intentions of the Georgian side to mend business and partnership relations," Onishchenko said.

In another statement likely to irritate Tbilisi, the watchdog said that exports from two Georgian breakaway republics, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, would continue. However, it also noted that for the majority of Georgian producers, the market remains open.

That may be as much a threat as a promise however. The partial limit on Georgian imports comes ahead of an EU summit in November in Lithuania, at which Georgia is expected to join the likes of Ukraine and Moldova in agreeing to strengthened ties with Brussels. Russia is pushing to have the former Soviet states join its Eurasian Union instead, and has recently blocked chocolate imports from Ukraine (as well as steel), wine from Moldova and dairy products from Lithuania citing similar health concerns.

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