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Russian embargo not all bad news?

By M. Alkhazashvili
(Translated by Diana Dundua)
Wednesday, February 13
The 2006 Russian embargo dealt an especially severe blow to the wine and mineral water industries—but the owner of Georgia’s famous Borjomi brand of mineral water claims it has actually benefited from Moscow’s move.

“One positive that followed the Russian embargo is that we are no longer dependent on a single market,” the newspaper Ekonomikuri Palitra quoted director general of Georgian Glass and Mineral Water Company Zaza Kikvadze as saying.

Before the embargo, which was enforced after Russian chief sanitary inspector Gennady Onishchenko announced a batch of counterfeit Borjomi had been detected by health inspectors, over 65 percent of Borjomi sales were in Russia.

But new markets have been found, and over 100 million bottles of Borjomi were sold in 30 different countries last year. Sales in the Baltic states doubled, accounting for 20 percent of Borjomi exports, according to the newspaper Ekonomikuri Palitra.

However, this is still short of pre-embargo sales and company representatives say it will take another two to three years before they can fully restore mineral water exports.

Meanwhile, recently reelected President Mikheil Saakashvili has emphasized the importance of improving relations with Russia in his second term of office, and on January 7 Onishchenko suggested Russia is ready to resume negotiations on lifting the embargo.