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Thursday 2 October 2014

Russia moves to ban Ukrainian alcohol

15th August, 2014 by Neal Baker

Drinks industry fears over the Ukrainian crisis have been ramped up even further this week, as Russia has moved to ban imports of the country’s alcohol products.

Seat of power: The Kremlin, Moscow, where officials have banned all imports of Ukrainian alcohol

Seat of power: St Basil’s Cathedral in the Kremlin, Moscow, where officials have banned imports of Ukrainian alcohol

Ukranian alcohol brands – including various vodkas and beers – stand accused of lying over calorie counts and other nutritional information by Russia’s consumer protection agency Rospotrebnadzor.

The agency, who made their ruling on Wednesday (August 13), stated that Ukrainian beer, wine and spirits “failed to meet the requirements identified on their labels”.

They suggested that the ratio of alcoholic content to calories did not meet their expectations — deemed reason enough to ban the biggest Ukrainian drinks brands from crossing the Russian border to be sold.

Samples of Obolon beer – made in Kiev in Europe’s largest brewery by capacity – showed an inaccurate calorie count, while some spirits sold by the Ukrainian Distribution Company had lied about their abv according to the agency.

Data from the Federal Customs Service shows that Russian imports of Ukrainian alcohol products was worth a not-insignificant $90.3 million (£54.1 million) last year.

The ban will come into force today (Friday 15 August).

No way in: Ukrainian products, worth over £50m in exports to Russia last year, have been banned as of Friday

No way in: Some Ukrainian alcohol products, worth over £50m in exports to Russia last year, have been banned as of Friday

This worrying trend of banning goods on questionable health grounds is picking up pace, and has the potential to result in a slow-creep towards more and more import bans on various Western alcohol products the longer the diplomatic crisis continues.

Either that or a broad-sweeping embargo on Western alcohol could soon be enforced by Russia — an increasingly important market over recent years in which global drinks brands have been pouring investment.

Russia have recently banned American Bourbon brand Sazerac over similarly spurious health and safety concerns.

And it has been reported that Kremlin officials are spending millions buying quality European wines — stoking fears that they are possibly stocking up before a wine embargo is put in place.

Last week, Moscow banned most meat and produce imports from the West, including the United States, EU nations, and others such as Canada, Australia and Norway.

This has been seen as a response to tough new Western sanctions on Russia over its alleged support for pro-Moscow rebels in east Ukraine, which is now in the throws of civil war.

The tactic of banning alcoholic products has been used by Moscow as recently as 2008, when sales of Georgian wines were banned in Russia before diplomatic tensions spilt over in a short war with Tbilisi.

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