In a major sign that fences are being mended between the neighbours, Georgian producers of wine and bottled water are set to finally resume exports to Russia after almost seven years of halted trade, after consumer watchdog Rospotrebnadzor approved dozens of companies to resume the traditional sales.
Rospotrebnadzor gave the go ahead for 36 Georgian wine makers and four mineral water producers to export their products to Russia on March 6. Agency head Gennady Onishchenko told RIA Novosti that Russia has granted the approval following inspections of the companies.
"During the first inspection, 37 alcohol-producing enterprises and four mineral water producers were checked. We will not admit one of the alcohol producers because things must be put in order there. All the other 36 enterprises can start registering their wines and brandy, Onishchenko - who has been accused of being more interested in waging political and economic campaigns than protecting consumer health - said at a press conference.
Russia suspended imports of Georgian wine in 2006, ostensibly for technical reasons, as relations between the two countries steadily deteriorated following the ascent to power in Tiblisi of the pro-Western President Mikheil Saakashvili in 2004. That tension peaked in five-day war over South Ossetia in August 2008. Onishchenko later angered Georgia by describing its wine as "poison," despite the fact that it had been imported by Russia in huge volume during Soviet times and since.
However, since the election of the Georgian Dream coalition in October 2012, the new government under Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili has worked hard to improve relations with Moscow. The Rospotrebnadzor inspection of Georgian wine and water producers was part of a revival of economic and political ties, with Ivanishvili having called for Russian investment into Georgia.
According to the Georgian association of wine producers, Georgia can supply 10m bottles of wine to Russia per year to what was its overwhelmingly largest market before the ban.