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Georgian wine exports rise 38 percent


Georgian wine exports grew by 38 percent last year $54.1 million (41.1 million euros), according to data released as the sector continues to recover from a ban by Russia that cut off its biggest foreign market.

"In terms of quantities of exported wines, we still are below pre-Russian embargo levels, but what we have got in terms of the value of exports means that Georgia has weathered the embargo and is making sound progress," Georgian Deputy Agriculture Minister Ia Janashvili told AFP.

Janashvili said that 19 million bottles were exported in 2011, a 28 percent increase on the previous year.

The country exported $81.3 million worth of wine in 2005, the year before Russia stopped imports citing alleged sanitary violations amid a political dispute with Georgia's pro-Western government which erupted into war two years later.

The industry was damaged by the ban but wine producers have been seeking new markets with support from President Mikheil Saakashvili, who has described Russia's move as a positive incentive for Georgian companies to improve the quality of their products.

"The Russian market is based on plunder, piracy, hypocrisy and illegality, but we have learned to work in normal conditions," Saakashvili said during last September's grape harvest.

Georgia claims to be the 'cradle of wine', citing archaeological finds which suggest that viniculture may have begun there as early as 8,000 years ago.