Tbilisi should change its position on the wine08.11.2011 | 14:00
Although official Tbilisi ignores persistent proposals of Gennady Onishchenko to return Georgian wine to Russia, intellectual ferment takes place in officials' minds.
Officially, Georgia's export of wine products is okay, but there's unpleasant point behind nice words: Mikhail Saakashvili has beheaded "Samtrest" for a failed export. GeorgiaTimes and Russian experts suggest the Georgian Department of wines and vines a new business strategy.
Now, this department, which is called "Samtrest" in Georgia, expects a new chief. This, still unknown man, must solve a difficult task - to discover America, as well as several other major countries where people are going to love "Khvanchkara" and "Kindzmarauli" from the first sight. It was decided to hold casting around the world because within the reach of Saakashvili there's no such a professional. And the Ministry of Agriculture of Georgia, which, incidentally, has also recently replaced its head, has announced international contest for the vacant position.
New Minister of Agriculture Zaza Gorozia commented the happening very reserved. According to him, "Samtrest" will be led by an expert, able to lift wine export about a quarter. By 2015, Georgia has to sell abroad about 40 million bottles of wine. And this, of course, is only a vague lower level, and ideally they would like a higher indicator.
According to Zaza Gorozia, they will create a separate expert committee, which will include not only officials, but also bankers, who will assess the professional qualities of the candidates and their business plans, specifically for the election of a new head of "Samtrest". They do not specify if there is a single candidate for this honor (and while dangerous) post. And it's still unclear, why they have announced international casting, because Sakartvelo is unlikely to seriously count on the cooperation with qualified foreign top-managers.
However, this is not the sole reformist officials' impulse, "inspired" by the dismissal of the former head of Wine department Basil Managadze. Ministry of Agriculture intends to re-brand "Samtrest", like if the changing of the logo can erase the history of failures and defeats of the Department. On the other hand, the Ministry long must take drastic measures. And in this case, the safest option for agricultural experts would be a set of beautiful words and a couple of hastily announced contests. Let's see, what's next.
In parallel, the National Investment Agency, headed by its director Katie Bochorishvili, tries to get to foreign markets through Hong Kong. The Georgians take part in the international competition of wines and spirits for the first time. Though, it is clear that a sole exhibition won't help them. This fact was recognized by Mikhail Saakashvili, when he fired the head of "Samtrest". Especially, given the example with the Moldovan wine-makers, for whom the Russian embargo has become a powerful impetus to the development of exports. And this is despite the fact that Sakartvelo's wine is realy better. So, the problem is not in the product, but in sellers.
Now, when Georgian producers have a real chance to return to the Russian market, it's time to fix errors of "Samtrest" - not to look for a new head of the department around the world, but to try to take some lost ground. Experts believe that for the Georgian wines, it will be much easier to return to Russia than to develop unexplored markets - primarily because the people of Russia have long known and loved it.
The niche, taken by Georgian wines in the Russian market till 2006, is free so far. "For seventy years, this was the product of the Soviet Union, actually a formed gastronomic culture, a return of which will probably be received with great love. Unique regional wines, the varieties that grow only in Georgia - they cannot be replaced", the Deputy CEO of Network of alcoholic hypermarkets Vinberry Galina Zabasen explained in an interview to GeorgiaTimes. According to her, the main thing is that suppliers must comply with the requirements for product quality, because the embargo, despite numerous attempts to ascribe the political overtones to it, actually took place due to the Georgia's inability to meet technical regulations.
To date, a key market for wines of Sakartvelo is Ukraine, which accounts for 70 percent of industry exports. "Georgia depends on the CIS in any case, because the most traditional consumer, who is brought up on Georgian wine, lives there, said our interlocutor. Neither Europe nor other countries, especially China, do not know what is the Georgian wine. To make them to get acquainted with it, and to love and to begin to consume it in such quantities as to arrange that the industry could resurface and straighten his shoulders, it must go through many years".