- Title: GEORGIA: Georgia's wine producers promised help after Russia bans imports.
- Date: 7th April 2006
- Summary: MEN SORTING GRAPES
- Embargoed: 22nd April 2006 13:00
- Location: Georgia
- Country: Georgia
- Topics: International Relations,Industry
- Reuters ID: LVABVS76RQVHMF4PDOK92X1AE6TK
- Story Text: Georgia will help its hard-pressed wine producers find new customers after Russia, its biggest market, halted imports, senior government officials said on Thursday (April 6).
Prime Minister Zurab Nogaideli said the government would bring a law suit against Russia's sanitary inspectorate. He said Georgia would try to boost sales in Ukraine and Kazakhstan, and press to be get back into the Russian market.
"The Association of Georgian wine producers together with their colleagues from Moldova will bring a law suit in Russia in order to protect our position at the legal level," Nogaideli told a news briefing in Tbilisi.
In the meantime the government is to grant temporary tax breaks to its winemakers.
Russia says it believes wines from Georgia and fellow ex-Soviet state Moldova contain dangerous pesticides. Tbilisi says the ban is to punish it for its pro-Western policies.
Wine last year accounted for between 11 and 12 percent of Georgia's exports, bringing in about 90 million U.S. dollars to an economy struggling to emerge from a meltdown after the collapse of Soviet rule.
President Saakashvili made a show of support by travelling to Georgia's main wine producing region, Kakheti. He sipped a glass of home-made wine with a local family and visited a wine-making plant.
Georgia has sought to distance itself from Russia since the "Rose Revolution" in late 2003 brought a western-leaning government to power. Saakashvili wants to take Georgia into the European Union and NATO, which troubles Moscow.
Relations are tense. Moscow and Tbilisi often exchange angry rhetoric and introduce restrictions on the movement of goods and people between the two countries.
"Everyone knows that there is fake Georgian wine and this fact is used by some politicians in order to completely halt export of the Georgian wine to the Russian market and by doing this to hurt Georgian economy," Archil Gegenava, the head of Teliani Valley, told Reuters. The company exports about 40 percent of its wine to Russia.
Georgia exports wine to 33 countries, but its main market is Russia. The country exported about 42 million bottles of wine to Russia in 2005.
"For our industry its a very big loss. No matter how active we are on other markets, it cannot replace the volume we sell at the Russian market, we all understand this," added Gegenava.
Russia's main sanitary inspectorate at the end of March stopped issuing certificates clearing Georgian and Moldovan wines for sale in Russia.
Georgia sent samples of its wine to three European laboratories for tests last week to prove they do not contain banned pesticides.
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