Onishchenko ready for negotiations on Georgian wine, mineral water imports

Federal Consumer Rights and Healthcare Supervisory Service head, chief public health official Gennady Onishchenko is ready to meet with Georgian businessmen in Moscow to discuss the resumption of Georgian wine and mineral water imports.

"We are studying documents and will send them invitations soon," Onishchenko told Interfax on Monday.

Georgian business associations and businessmen have applied to the Russian federal service for their return to the Russian market, Onishchenko said.

Federal service inspections of the Georgian plants are the mandatory condition, he said.

"There are such plans. But an agreement is a different question. There are no specific agreements so far," Onishchenko said.

Georgian National Wine Agency head Levan Davitashvili said on Dec. 9 that the return to the Russian market was strategic although the country had found buyers in other states.

"The Russian market is important, this is a strategic market which is beyond comparison with any other market by its potential," he said. Earlier Davitashvili was the commercial director of Schuchmann Wines Georgia LLC, a Georgian maker of elite wine, and head of the Georgian Wine Association.

In his words, the Georgian National Wine Agency "will be working towards the return to the Russian market."

Russia severed imports of Georgian wine and mineral water in 2006 against the backdrop of exacerbation of the bilateral relations. The official pretext for banning the imports was inferior quality. Onishchenko said in mid-September that Georgia had taken serious steps towards upgrading the quality of its wine.

Onishchenko told Interfax on Nov. 16 that eight Georgian plants might be allowed to export their wine and mineral water to Russia. He said the plants had applied to the federal service and their documentation had been verified. Russian specialists will inspect them now. "We have studied their documents, but inspections are also necessary," Onishchenko said.

"Should we do the guesswork?" he replied to the question if the deliveries might resume before the end of this year. Georgian plants need to be certified for working with the Russian market, Onishchenko said. "Here is our condition: interaction with the inspectors of Georgian wine quality on the national level," he said.

Georgian Agriculture Minister David Kirvalidze said earlier that Georgia was ready to create conditions for the visit of Russian experts and evaluation of the products' quality.

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