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Small EU country becomes Russia’s biggest whisky supplier – media

Latvia is serving as a middleman for the import of Western spirits into the Russian market, experts say

Latvia became Russia’s top supplier of whisky last year, reaching $250 million in sales and outpacing all other exporters combined, RIA Novosti reported on Monday, citing industry data.   

The Baltic nation ramped up shipments of spirits to Russia despite aggravated tensions between the two countries and Western sanctions.  

Latvia’s share in the total volume of whisky supplied to Russia in 2023 stood at 73% in monetary terms, with exports reaching $251.2 million, according to the data.   

“Latvia has been a vocal supporter of Ukraine and joined in pushing for EU sanctions against Russia… At the same time, Latvia continues to serve as Russia’s primary source of whiskey, accounting for more than 70% of all Russian whiskey imports during 2023,” John Wright of the Moral Rating Agency told Euronews.  

According to Western experts, Latvia is serving as a “gateway” for Western spirits companies to access the Russian market, acting as a middleman for companies unwilling to show they’re still selling their products to Russia amid the Ukraine conflict. 

Latvia was followed by its Baltic neighbor, Lithuania, which delivered $39 million worth of whisky last year, figures showed. The UK ranked third with $14.8 million. France and Armenia ranked fourth and fifth, respectively, with around $7 million supplied each.   

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Overall whisky shipments to Russia were worth $344.2 last year, according to the outlet.   

Lithuania embarked on a major expansion last year, having ramped up exports of the liquor to Russia fourfold compared to 2022, according to RIA Novosti. Latvia, meanwhile increased exports by 3.5 times. Armenian whisky exports were up 5%.

The UK and France, meanwhile, slashed deliveries by 23% and 27%, respectively.   

Whisky has been one of the types of alcohol most affected in Russia by Western trade restrictions. However, parallel imports of some brands, including Johnnie Walker, Jack Daniel’s, Bushmills, Jim Beam and White Horse, have been allowed, and the number of suppliers is growing.   

In March 2022, the Russian government authorized retailers to import products from abroad without the trademark owner’s permission. The mechanism of parallel imports was legalized to provide the market with goods that Western companies stopped delivering due to sanctions.

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT’s business section

February 20, 2024 at 10:51AM

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