Russia May Delay Inspection of Georgian Wineries

MOSCOW, March 18 (RIA Novosti) – Russia said Monday that it may postpone new inspections of wine and mineral water producing plants in Georgia, in a hold-up that threatens to further drag out the resumption of imports to Russia.

Consumer right watchdog Rospotrebnadzor accused Georgia of failing to provide the necessary package of documents required for the follow-up visit by Russian specialists. It also said that Georgia has added more companies to its list for inspection.

Russia banned the import of Georgian wines and two popular brands of mineral water in 2006, claiming that they contained hazardous substances. Georgia described the move, which came as ties between the two ex-Soviet nations soured with the rise to power of pro-Western Georgian leader Mikheil Saakashvili, as politically motivated.

Further complicating the process of resuming imports, Georgian wine and water producers last week said they were unable to supply product specimens to Russia due to difficulties in obtaining visas for company representatives.

Rospotrebnadzor last week cleared 36 Georgian winemakers and four mineral water producers to resume deliveries to Russia, following an inspection in February.

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.

The head of the Georgian wine producers’ agency has said that Georgia is able to supply Russia with up to 10 million bottles of wine annually.

Rospotrebnadzor Gennady Onishchenko said in February that Georgian wines could return to the Russian market as soon as the spring.

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