26 Nov 2019 16:00

Transition period needed for Russian winemakers to stop using imported materials - Agriculture Ministry

MOSCOW. Nov 26 (Interfax) - The Russian Agriculture Ministry believes that a transition period is needed so that winemakers can replace imported wine materials with Russian ones, as domestic grape production does not yet cover the industry's needs.

"A transition period is needed for any new idea. We're planning a harvest of 540,000 tonnes of grapes this year. Of course, this isn't enough to provide all of us with tasty Russian wine made from domestic grapes," Deputy Minister Oksana Lut said at a press conference in Moscow on Tuesday. She had been asked about the ministry's position regarding the bill on viticulture and winemaking, which would require that Russian wine be made with Russian grapes. The bill passed its first reading on November 19.

"But it goes without saying that there are plans to significantly increase the amount of grapes grown in the next five years. There will, of course, always be a deficit. We can't grow grapes everywhere. We probably won't be able to cover all of our needs in the near future. So the issue of a transition period [arises]," Lut said.

The ministry supported the bill and is participating in the discussion of it ahead of the second reading, she said.

"Following the first reading, the bill is being improved. Of course, amendments will be made. But the very fact that the bill passed its first reading is very good, because this is the first step toward genuine regulation of our beautiful industry. We'll see, we'll work with our colleagues from the State Duma," Lut said.

Dmitry Kiselyov, the head of the Russian Union of Viticulturists and Winemakers, said that bill is revolutionary. "I hope it will pass its second and third readings by the end of the year," he said.

The document is "moving like an icebreaker, breaking many legislative provisions that are now in force, this bill contradicts them," Kiselyov said. It "contradicts the Budget Code, right up to the Civil Code. I believe legislators should make amendments in line with this bill. We need to gather our courage and take advantage of this historic chance that has been provided to Russia today," he said.

Kiselyov said that there is not consensus within the industry regarding the changes that are planned. "But unless we introduce the healthy principles the bill proposes, we'll never build the industry, because it will always be more profitable to make wine from cheap semifinished products than wine made from grapes. This is a key issue. The Union should consolidate around this new idea," he said.