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News 22 Feb 17

Macedonia, Croatia Risk Trade War Over Wine

Skopje may make it harder to import Croatian products if Zagreb continues imposing additional non-tariff restrictions on Macedonian wine and delaying imports with lengthy inspections.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Macedonia's Agriculture Ministry says it is mulling retaliatory measures against Croatian products if Zagreb fails to lift recent additional restrictions on Macedonian wine imports that has forced entire shipments to be delayed by long and expensive inspections.

"It is evident that these are non-tariff barriers. We don't ask for lowering of the prices for analyses, we just want the period [for inspections] to be within some normal timeframe, and not as is right now, when our wine sits in warehouses for 32 days," said Macedonian Agriculture Minister Mihail Cvetkov.

Cvetkov said that if Croatia fails to end the practice of lengthy checks by the end of this month, "we will be forced to apply reciprocal measures on Croatian products".

He said that the ministry doesn't yet have a detailed list of Croatian products that may be affected by the measures.

The Croatian Agriculture Ministry has previously said that the new rules on imports of foreign wine, which started being applied in January, were adopted in order to protect domestic wine producers, who undergo the same checks. It also said that the prolonged checks only apply to non-bottled wine.

Macedonia wineries have warned meanwhile that the new Croatian rules are costing them a lot of money and worry.

"Instead of 24 hours, the procedures and additional analyses now last anywhere from 15 to 45 days, depending on the winery and the importer in question," the association of wine producers Wines of Macedonia told 24 News TV.

According to the most recent official data from the Macedonian Agriculture Ministry, in 2016 Macedonia exported 26 per cent of its total wine produce to Croatia - 17 million litres which was worth over 11 million euro. More than half of this wine was not bottled.

This makes Croatia the second biggest market for Macedonian wines after neighbouring Serbia.

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