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Why has Russia banned Moldovan wine?

Credit: Reuters

IT IS one of Moldova’s biggest exports and Russians love to drink it. But since September Russia has forbidden the import of Moldovan wine, as well as spirits. That is a big blow to Europe’s poorest country, whose economy is highly dependent on agriculture and the drinks industry that goes with it. It is also unwelcome news for Russian consumers, who got a taste for Moldovan wine during Communist times, when Moldova stocked Soviet cellars. Why then has Russia outlawed it?

The Russian consumer-protection agency decreed that Moldovan wine, which accounts for 10% of all the wine drunk in Russia, was dangerous because it had been found to contain traces of plastic. Moldova’s agriculture minister has pointed out that Russia permits a higher amount of the same elements in its own water supply, and the European Union a higher amount still. Russia is unmoved. It is the second time it has clamped down on Moldovan vineyards. At the time of the previous ban, in 2006-07, Russia accounted for 60% of Moldova’s wine exports. Since then Moldovan winemakers have found new markets: on the eve of the latest embargo only 29% of their exports went to Russia.

Nonetheless, the ban has cost Moldova $6.6m so far, according to the government. Ludmila Boiescu of the Chateau Vartely winery says that the biggest losses have been for companies that had already exported their wine but not yet been paid for it. Normally a quarter of her company’s sales are to Russia, but the firm is now looking elsewhere, to countries such as Poland, Kazakhstan and China.

UNCORK THE FULL STORY   The Economist

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