Georgia Gets Russian Agricultural Access After Seven-Year Ban

Georgia regained access to Russian markets for its fruit, vegetable and nut exports, seven years after its northern neighbor banned the produce, according to the Black Sea country’s National Food Agency in Tbilisi.

Russian inspectors have carried out sanitation checks in Georgia, Giga Kurdovanidze, a spokesman for the agency, said today by phone from the capital, Tbilisi.

Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, a Russian-trained economist and engineer, promised to improve political and business ties between the countries following his upset election victory in October over the party of President Mikhail Saakashvili. Russia has also lifted a ban on wine and mineral water imports from the former Soviet republic.

“Almost all types of Georgian agricultural products are now being allowed into Russia,” Alexei Alekseenko, a spokesman for Russian regulator Rosselkhoznadzor, said today by phone from Moscow. “We haven’t yet agreed on persimmon and kiwi shipments.”

Relations between Russia and Georgia deteriorated after Saakashvili’s election in 2004. Russia imposed the ban on Georgian wine, mineral water and agricultural products in 2006, following the expulsion of four of its soldiers accused of spying, and closed transportation links. In 2008, Russia routed the Georgian army in a war over South Ossetia, and Russia recognized the two regions’ sovereignty.

Apples, pears, citrus, grapes and hazelnuts have been cleared for export to Russia, with more to come, Kurdovanidze said.

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