The UK government is to challenge the Russian authorities over cheap whisky being sold in Russia as Scotch whisky.
Environment minister Owen Paterson, who is visiting Moscow next month as part of a trade delegation of UK food and drink companies, said he intends to push his Russian counterparts for improvements in Scotch whisky protection in Russia.
Paterson said it was important to come down hard on fakes to protect the reputation of a premium product and ensure that people get “the real thing”.
“I am whole-heartedly behind the Scotch Whisky Association’s on-going work to make sure that anything sold as ‘Scotch whisky’ is made in Scotland”
“Scotch whisky exports are a tremendous success story, worth £4.3bn in sales in around 200 countries worldwide,” he said. “I am whole-heartedly behind the Scotch Whisky Association’s on-going work to make sure that anything sold as ‘Scotch whisky’ is made in Scotland.”
Scotch whisky is registered as Geographic Indication across the EU, China and other markets, but is currently not registered in Russia. Although the process has been started, it may take some time to be finalised, and until then, the Scottish whisky industry relies on protection under the World Trade Organisation.
The SWA admitted that although the industry was “very well protected” from fakes, GI status in Russia would provide “stronger protection”. However, it said it was difficult to estimate how big the problem was or to put a figure on the lost income as counterfeit activity was carried out on the black market.
“It can be an issue as Scotch whisky becomes more popular, because it becomes more attractive for people to cash in,” a spokesman said.
Direct exports of Scotch whisky to Russia totalled £23m last year, although the figure is likely to be higher as exports reach Russia via other routes. It is now one of the UK’s most valuable food and drink exports.