By Nigar Abbasova
Azerbaijan takes credit for being one of the world’s oldest wine growing countries. The natural conditions in the country allow to cultivate as many as 450 different grape varieties for the production of red wine and white wine. Grapes grown in Azerbaijan were repeatedly recognized as the best in the South Caucasus.
But for years, the volume of wine production in the country and its export remained dwarfed. Now, the country seeks to regain its positions and expand the map of its wine export.
Head of the Wine Exporters' and Producers' Association of Azerbaijan Elchin Madatov is sure that opportunities for further development of the grape industry in the country appear to be very good.
Madatov says that the wine production has potential to turn into one of the main revenue sources for the country.
“Advantageous geographic location of the country allows it to succeed in the sphere. Modern grape processing plants were constructed in Azerbaijan over the past 10-15 years. Technical provision of these enterprises allows to compete with leading European facilities.
Besides, the sphere enjoys a special attention of the government, while huge funds have already been invested in this sector. Moreover, grape cultivation area has been expanded significantly,” he told Trend.
The country possesses all natural conditions – a mountainous terrain and its close location to the Caspian Sea- for the development of a grape industry. Five major wine-growing regions of the country are Shamakha, Ismaily, Gabala, Gandja, Tovuz. Besides, Azerbaijan became a member of the International Organization of Vine and Wine in June 2014 and since then it has focused attention on the development of vines and wineries as important contributors to the economy and agriculture.
Local entrepreneurs have received loans worth 440,000 manats ($ 230,750) since November 2016 for supplies of wine. In tote, the sphere has received loans worth 40 million manats ($ 20.9 million) so far.
However, there are still certain hindrances that do not allow to reach the desired volumes of the wine production. Today, Azerbaijan produces 20 million bottles of wine per year, while the annual production capacity of the country’s wineries is 100 million bottles.
Madatov says that along with developing the wine growing and expanding the domestic market, the wine producers also should enter foreign markets.
“The level of competitiveness in the foreign market is very high. Russia and China are currently our main markets. The Chinese market is new for us - Azerbaijani production entered the Chinese market just about a year ago, and the dynamics is good enough. The situation is much more complicated in the Russian market due to very high competition. We are actively competing with the Georgian and Armenian producers. We believe that the Azerbaijani wine production needs even more governmental support as it is difficult for individual producers to promote their goods in the Russian market,” he said.
Recently, the country launched wine export to new markets such as China, Vietnam, Japan, South Korea, the U.S. and some European countries. Overall, the wine export of Azerbaijan hit $3.5 million in 2016.
Madatov further emphasized that work is underway on expanding the map of wine export.
“Over the past three months, we have visited China, Belarus and Germany, where we actively advertised Azerbaijani products. I would like to note that the measures are already bearing fruit. We already have requests from Belarus, and I believe that this year the Azerbaijani wine and cognac will return to the Belarusian market. A big interest is also observed in the European market but it is new for us, and we have to promote our products there,” he noted.
Madatov said the main aim is to diversify the supply markets and not depend on a single destination. “Therefore, we are in a constant search of new markets,” he said.
Talking about the measures required to improve the sphere, Madatov said that the Association offers to properly organize production of components of wine production, mentioning that this will help to reduce the prime cost of the output.
“Prime cost of our production is high enough. We import a lion’s share of required components, including fertilizers, pesticides and equipment. The government allocates loans and leases equipment, but we need to organize production of these components within the country. A tare is yet another imported element. A colored glass should be used in the process of bottling. We import it from Georgia, Russia, and some European countries as it is not produced in Azerbaijan,” he said.
Nigar Abbasova is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @nigyar_abbasova
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