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Armenia Moves To Restrict Brandy Imports


Workers at an Armenian brandy factory in the Armavir region

Workers at an Armenian brandy factory in the Armavir region

YEREVAN -- The Armenian government has decided to ban local brandy producers that use imported alcohol and label it "Armenian cognac," RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian said on July 22 that any brandy distilleries using even minuscule amounts of imported grape spirits will have to call their product "arbun," a term coined by linguists and approved by the government in May.

As his cabinet approved the measure, Sarkisian said that "Armenian cognac is cognac that is distilled 100 percent from local grapes."

The move is seen as giving a big boost to viticulture in Armenia, as it should greatly boost demand for the country's grapes.

The measure will be fully effective in 2015 and is aimed at protecting the quality and reputation of Armenia's most famous alcoholic drink. It is still highly popular across the former Soviet Union, where it has always been known as "cognac."

Hrant Bagratian, a former prime minister and deputy director of the French-owned Yerevan Brandy Company from 1998-2006, told RFE/RL recently that local brandy producers continue to import cheaper alcohol from abroad in large quantities.

He accused those companies of grossly overstating their grape purchases from Armenian farmers.

Gevorg Ghazarian, a senior official at the Agriculture Ministry, said the government is trying to address such concerns. "We hope that spirits will not be imported at all and that 'arbun' will not be produced at all," he told RFE/RL.

Ghazarian added that his ministry, which is tasked with enforcing the ban, hopes by 2013 to obtain the sophisticated laboratory equipment that he said is needed for verifying brandy-makers' compliance with the new rules.

He admitted that the existing verification procedures, based on an analysis of company statements, are not rigorous enough.
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