Georgia Says Wine Registration in Russia Stalls over Visas

TBILISI, March 13 (RIA Novosti) – Georgian wine and mineral water producers cannot supply specimens of their products to Russia due to difficulties in obtaining visas for company representatives, Georgia’s National Wine Agency said Wednesday.

Earlier Russia’s chief sanitary doctor Gennady Onishchenko, who heads the consumer rights watchdog Rospotrebnadzor, said he asked the Russian Foreign Ministry to help Georgian wine and water suppliers to streamline the procedure of delivering product samples for registration in Russia. He said only one Georgian manufacturer has submitted specimens so far.

“There is a problem with issuing visas, which is why it is hard for companies to deliver specimens to Russia,” the wine agency said. “As far as we know, Rospotrebnadzor has asked the Russian Foreign Ministry to assist us in the issue, but so far we have received no signals that the process can be simplified.”

Onishchenko said a week ago that Rospotrebnadzor cleared 36 Georgian winemakers and four mineral water producers to resume exports to Russia, following Russia’s first inspection in late February of Georgian winemakers and mineral water producers seeking to return to the Russian market.

Russia banned imports of Georgian wines and two popular brands of mineral water in 2006, saying the products were of poor quality, in a move widely condemned in Georgia as politically motivated. Onishchenko then branded Georgian and Moldovan wines as “poison.”

Georgian wines and mineral waters were very popular in the Soviet Union and retained much of that appeal after the Soviet Union broke up. Before the ban, Russia was the largest market for Georgian wines.

Georgia is ready to supply 10 million bottles of wine to Russia annually, the head of Georgia’s wine producers’ agency said earlier. Last month, Onishchenko said Georgian wines could return to the Russian market as soon as this spring.

The already tense relationship between Georgia and Russia worsened considerably after the ascent to power of the pro-Western Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili in 2004. The two countries briefly went to war in a five-day conflict in 2008 over the breakaway republic of South Ossetia, which Russia later recognized as independent, while Tbilisi insists the territory is part of Georgia.

Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, a billionaire tycoon and the leader of the Georgian Dream coalition which won the country’s parliamentary elections late last year, said he wanted to improve relations with Russia and would welcome Russian investors to the country.

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