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ArmeniaLiberty: French Firm Says Armenian Cognac Sales Up In 2002

By Anush Dashtents

Armenia’s biggest brandy producer said on Saturday that it expects its aggregate sales to rise by 10 percent and surpass 3 million liters this year.

Pierre Larretche, chairman of the French-owned Yerevan Brandy Company (YBC), told RFE/RL that although Russia and other former Soviet republics remain the main market for Armenian brandy, the company is registering considerably higher sales in Western Europe and the United States. YBC anticipates that it will sell 60,000 bottles of brandy in the Western markets in 2002, he added.

Larretche admitted that Armenian cognac, though very popular in the former Soviet Union, is still “very little known” in the West. He said YBC’s parent company, the French Pernod Ricard giant, plans to spend substantial funds on its marketing.

Russia accounts for 80 percent of Armenian brandy sales, followed by Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan. The Yerevan-based distillery was hit hard by the Russian financial meltdown of 1998. The ensued economic recovery in Russia has reflected very positively on the performance of YBC other Armenian liquor producers oriented towards the Russian market.

Highlighting the positive trend, YBC plans to purchase 15,000 metric tons of grapes from some 3,200 Armenian farmers this year or 10 percent more than in 2001. The farmers will be paid 80 drams ($0.14) per kilogram.

Visiting the wine-producing Armavir province last March, Larretche claimed that Armenia’s expanding brandy and wine distilleries could face a shortage of grapes by 2005 unless local farmers enlarge their vineyards to keep up with the demand. He urged local farmers to begin planting new grape vines no later than 2003. A vine takes from 4 to 5 years to start bearing fruits used for the production of the alcoholic drinks.

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