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By Karine Kalantarian
Armenia’s brandy companies have suspended shipments of their renowned product to Russia, their principal market, citing the Russian government’s failure to provide them with new stamps for excise duties levied from alcohol importers.

Moscow announced earlier this years that foreign brandy and other alcoholic beverages bearing the existing excise stamps will be banned from entering Russia starting from April 1. However, Russian customs authorities began selling the new stamps to liquor importers only last week, making it practically impossible for them to comply with the new requirement.

The Yerevan Brandy Company (YBC), Armenia’s largest cognac distillery owned by the French drinks conglomerate Pernod Ricard, has already taken precautions against the logistical mix-up. YBC, according to its deputy commercial director Grigor Ghazarian, has stocked several weeks’ supply of its brandy in Russia in recent weeks.

“There is no cause for concern,” Ghazarian told RFE/RL. “We supplied cognac to Russia with old excise stamps until February and expect to receive the first batch of new stamps in two or three weeks time.”

Armenia’s second largest brandy producer, Great Valley, is bracing itself for a longer delay. Its commercial director, Emil Markarian, said the company will not be able to buy the new Russian stamps before May and has already been forced to operate at fraction of its capacity.

Armenian brandy, which remains popular across the former Soviet Union, is the number one export of the country’s agribusiness sector. Over 30 big and small companies distill and sell the bulk of it abroad, mainly in Russia. According to unofficial estimates, they exported at least 7 million liters of brandy worth $170 million to Russia last year, with YBC accounting for nearly half of the total.
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