12 DEC 2011 / 09:49
A quarter of Macedonia’s wineries face closure this year – ironically after government advertisements used the example of wineries to encourage entrepreneurship.
Twenty-two out of 84 registered wineries in the country have recently been removed from the list of registered wine producers run by the Ministry of Agriculture because they failed to pay farmers for the grapes they had purchased.
“With their removal [from the list], they lose their licences to produce wine,” Besir Jashari, state secretary in the ministry, confirmed.
Ironically, a recent government-run TV commercial drew on the example of the wine-making business to inspire people to start their own businesses.
In the commercial, a family is sh0wn holding a house party and after all the guests praise their homemade wine, they decide to make a business out of it.
“We will all help,” one relative of the grandfather whose wine they have just tasted, exclaims with enthusiasm.
The next scene shows the grandfather and his nephew as successful businessmen, already running their own winery.
Balkan Insight contacted some small wineries that face closure but none wanted to speak openly of the problems they face.
But, talking off the record, some say that starting a successful wine business is a lot harder than the commercial suggested.
They say it is expensive to start a wine producing company and that conditions on the world market make it hard to achieve a breakthrough and get a decent price.
“The biggest wine markets, like Europe and the United States, have been flooded with cheap new quality wines from India, Africa and China, and this lowers the prices,” one owner of a small company from Macedonia’s Tikvesh wine region complained.
The fact that Macedonians themselves prefer consuming beer to wine does not help sales, he added.
Wine is the second largest agricultural export from Macedonia after tobacco. Macedonia annually exports 120 million litres but only a small portion of it this bottled and branded and sells for a higher price.
Most of the wine goes to countries of the European Union and Macedonia is still among the five largest wine exporters to Germany.
Mihail Petkov, a professor at the Faculty of Agriculture in Skopje, urges wine makers to focus on expanding its grape crop and make better use of state help to promote sales abroad.
“The world market will eventually stabilize and Macedonia can find its place in it,” he said.
The Ministry of Transport has recently put 41 locations on sale, intended for new vineyards.
In addition, the government last year started offering subsidies to grape producers and it is also devising a wine export strategy.