Alcohol importers request delay on new licensing

RIA Novosti
Eleven of Russia’s largest alcohol importers have written to Prime Minister Putin and the Head of the customs service requesting a delay in the implementation of new import licensing requirements.

The new licensing requirements stem from the harmonization of Russia’s alcohol licensing laws with those of Kazakhstan and Belarus as part of the creation of a customs union, which is seeking entry into the WTO.

The new licensing laws differ from the previous regime as they phase out old requirements and validity dates of previously given licenses. Any licenses received before the 1st of January are only valid for as long as they were originally issued for.

The new law came into effect starting the 1st of January, 2010.

Wine has now been added to the list of alcoholic goods that require a license both for importing and exporting. A source from the Economic Development Ministry says the wine was added to the list in order to get Kazakhstan to license the import of medicine “In essence, this was an exchange.”

The processing of wine shipments completely ceased on January 11 because importers don’t yet have the licenses. The Ministry of Industry and Trade’s divisions were supposed to give the licenses out starting from the 1st, but didn’t start accepting documents for the licenses until last week.

The licensing will take up to 15 working days according to the Ministry upon the receipt of the necessary documents from the importers

Importers are asking Prime Minister Putin to move the starting dates of the new rules to June and cancel the order by the Customs Service to require the licenses. The lack of a transition period and hurdles involved with getting the new licenses “will inevitably result in a lack of imported alcoholic products in stores and restaurants,” says the letter.

However, a representative from the press service for the Federal Customs Service said that “There is no provision for a transition period during the introduction of the new regulations.”

Maksim Karshin, General Director of wine trading company Simple, believes problems will start from February, with suppliers facing problems, including additional losses, and state budget revenues dropping as importers pay taxes and customs duties.

Vadim Drobiz, head of the Union of participants in the alcohol market, says that not only importers but producers as well will suffer. As of now, 70% of wine materials for wine and 100% for champagne are supplied from abroad. He estimates the lost income will add up more than $300 million.