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    Moldova ready to grant Russia investment privileges in agriculture

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    MOSCOW, February 15 (RIA Novosti) - Moldova proposes privileged conditions for investments in the republic's agriculture, a deputy Moldovan agriculture and food industry minister said Thursday.

    "Russia is one of the most important markets for Moldovan agricultural products. We invite all Russian regions and businesses for cooperation," Stefan Calancea said.

    "We will create privileged conditions for investments in agriculture," he added.

    Russia banned imports of Moldovan wines in March 2006 over concerns that they contained traces of pesticides and heavy metals. Meat imports and transit from Moldova were prohibited in April 2005 also on health and safety grounds.

    Calancea said Russian and Moldovan experts are working out a scheme of wine imports via a single customs checkpoint.

    He said the resumption of wine imports will be discussed after this work is completed.

    "A special laboratory was created in Moldova to check wine quality," he said adding that all wines supplied to Russia will be checked at this state laboratory.

    He said the state will also inspect all wine producers.

    Russia's chief health official Gennady Onishchenko said last week Moldovan wine exports to Russia will be resumed amid serious restrictions and will be subject to special treatment, limiting the country's access to the Russian wine market.

    He said each consignment will be closely inspected before being allowed to cross the border, adding, however, that the special regime will only be in effect during the first stage of the resumption of exports.

    Moldova said last month it has launched a rigorous quality control and certification system for wines and liquors it sells both domestically and abroad.

    All alcoholic beverages slated for export will be required to apply for a state trademark with the regulatory agency overseeing their sale. Beverages intended for distribution inside the country will need a quality excise from the tax inspectorate agency.

    The measure is aimed at restoring importer confidence in Moldovan wines, the impoverished post-Soviet nation's key export.

    In November, President Vladimir Putin promised to reverse the ban if Moldova introduces a proper quality control system.

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