TBILISI, February 27 (RIA Novosti) – The resumption of wine exports to Russia will benefit Georgia’s economy, and the government has no plans to reverse previous agreements, Georgia’s Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development Giorgi Kvirikashvili said on Wednesday.
The statement came as a response to President Mikheil Saakashvili’s criticism of inspections by Russia’s consumer watchdog Rospotrebnadzor of about 40 wine making and four mineral water producing enterprises that want to resume selling products to Russia. The inspections began on Tuesday.
“I would like to repeat once again that the Russian market is currently being seen as an opportunity to diversity Georgian wine making. It will save Georgia and provide an opportunity for expanding [production], which no one is going to reject, no matter what comments he [Saakashvili] makes,” the minister said.
Georgian wines and mineral waters were very popular in the Soviet Union and retained much of that appeal after the Soviet Union fell apart. Before the ban, Russia was the largest market for Georgian wines.
Russia banned imports of Georgian wines and two popular brands of mineral water in 2006, citing poor quality of the products, in a move widely condemned in Georgia as politically motivated. Rospotrebnadzor chief Gennady Onishchenko then branded Georgian and Moldovan wines as “poison.”
On Tuesday, Saakashvili publicly questioned the reasons behind Russian experts’ presence in Georgia.
“A Russian official wants two kopeks [the Russian equivalent of a penny] in the pocket to leave satisfied. Do you really think they arrived here to monitor chemicals in our wine?” the Georgia Online portal quoted Saakashvili as saying.
Onishchenko said on Wednesday that such statements insult Russian specialists, who could be withdrawn at any moment.