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Russia threat to nationalise wine is ‘political’

The Russian government is threatening to renationalise the wine industry, putting a million jobs at risk, a leading wine distributor said today.

Dimitri Pinski, of DP Trade in Russia, told delegates at the Winefuture conference in Rioja that he considered the situation had more to do with political expediency than a desire to control alcohol abuse.

‘I don’t need to polish the truth, it is all very alarming,’ he said, adding he believed the timing of the crackdown was ‘artificial and suspicious.’

Since August 2009, levels of alcoholism in Russia have been under the spotlight, with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s deputy, Igor Sechin, championing tighter controls over the drinks industry, and ultimately the reintroduction of a state monopoly.

A government committee was created on 29 October to look into regulation of the alcohol markets. Its results will be announced in March 2010.

Sechin has brought in increasingly draconian measures in recent years, including the banning of internet sales since 2007, laws banning secondary wine trading, and wines over 15% alcohol being treated as fortified.

‘Russia’s problems with alcohol are well documented,’ Pinski said. ‘But since 2005 levels have been brought back down to those of 1990.

‘There are people who think the timing of this crackdown is more to do with the volume of the alcohol market, and that is has become too attractive and therefore worth nationalising.

‘There is an opinion that it will then be re-privatised to a few key companies.’

Pinski said ‘over a million jobs of those who work in the trade’ would be threatened by nationalisation, and that his company was lobbying to have wine excluded from the monopoly.

‘We will find out in March next year if we are successful.’

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Written by Jane Anson in Rioja

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