Russia to Allow Georgian Wine Imports After Seven-Year Ban

Russia will allow 36 Georgian wineries and four makers of mineral water to register their products, effectively lifting a seven-year ban on imports from the former Soviet republic.

The decision was made after Russian inspectors carried out the first round of sanitation checks in Georgia, Russia’s public health chief, Gennady Onishchenko, said today in comments broadcast on state television.

“Georgian wineries and factories successfully passed their checks in order to appear on the Russian market, and we expect further checks on March 25,” Levan Davitashvili, head of Georgia’s National Wine Agency, told reporters in Tbilisi today.

Russia in 2006 imposed a ban on Georgian wine, mineral water and agricultural products after a spy scandal, depriving the South Caucasus nation of its biggest foreign market. It extended the embargo to postal and transport links after the two countries fought a war over a Georgian breakaway region two years later.

Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, a Russian-trained economist and engineer, has promised to improve political and economic ties with the country’s northern neighbor following his upset election victory in October over the party of President Mikhail Saakashvili.

Health Checks

A total of 93 Georgian companies have sought to resume shipments to Russia, and 40 more firms may be inspected as part of a second round of health checks, Davitashvili said.

“The process of entering the Russian market begins, but it’s too early to say how much increase we expect in sales,” said George Margvelashvili, president of Tbilisi-based wine maker Tbilvino.

Georgian wine exports increased to $54.1 million in 2011, the latest year for which data were available and the most since the embargo. Exports rose 37.7 percent from a year earlier to 16.9 million liters, according to Georgia’s National Statistics Office of Georgia. Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan topped the list of customers.

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