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Russia: huge reduction in Argentinian imports

Russia will reduce bulk wine imports by up to 80% in volume this year, experts predict.

Last year Russia was the number one market for Argentina’s bulk wines, importing just over 93m litres.

This year it will probably take less than 30m, Exequiel Barros of Buenos Aires-based analysts Caucasia Wine Thinking said.

But even that might be optimistic: exports to Russia in the first six months of 2009 have only reached 12.73m litres.

Argentinian producers blame a number of factors including higher bulk prices, unfavourable exchange rates and lack of government support.

‘Brazil has increased its bulk sales to Russia, motivated by government incentives,’ said Sebastian Acosta of Terrasur, a Mendoza producer.

From the Russian side, much depends on a combination of which supplier is currently in favour – Moldova is back, Georgia’s still out – and oil prices.

In 2008 Argentina and Spain supplied 70% of the Russian market with hundreds of millions of litres of bulk wine, filling a gap left after Moldovan wine imports were banned from 2006 to late 2007.

This trade has been badly hit by the recession and the drop in oil prices. ‘The Russians just didn’t appear this year,’ said Susana Balbo, president of Wines of Argentina.

Most of the Russian bulk buyers are now in deep crisis, said Bisso Atanassov, editor of Simple Wine News, and Moldova is increasing pressure to buy previously unsold wines, which are of low quality but ‘at a fraction of a euro, they are flying of the shelves.’

Bottled and packaged Argentinian wine exports for the first half of 2009 are still bucking the trend, up 11% in volume and 9% in value according to provisional industry figures.

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Written by Sophie Kevany

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