Borjomi is a mineral water from Georgia, of volcanic origin, over 1,500 years old. The healing water is a bicarbonate-sodium sour water, it helps against diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, liver, pancreas and metabolic diseases. And its fluoride is used to stop tooth decay.
It really has to be said. Because the ancient water from the valley of Borjomi in the Lesser Caucasus has gotten into the mills of world politics.
At the moment, workers at the Borjomi factory are demonstrating against the possible closure of the company, which has an annual capacity of up to 120 million bottles (2002) and around 1,000 employees.
Nika Gelashvili, employee "IDS Borjomi”:
"They changed our contracts. When the situation calms down, we demand a return to the same conditions as before. We don't want to protest any further. But why did they close the factory? Why did they stop producing the mineral water that is used in Georgia and the entire region is in high demand?"
INDEPENDENCE, WAR, PRIVATIZATION, SANCTIONS
In the Soviet era, water was the main export of the Georgian SSR. 450 million half-litre bottles were filled every year. After Georgia's independence, mineral water exports collapsed. The state producer lacked the funds for the necessary investments. In 1996 the company had only 14 employees.
Finally, in 2006, Russia's health authorities imposed an import ban on Georgian mineral water – until 2013. In the meantime, the South Ossetian conflict escalated and open war broke out with Russia, traditionally the main buyer of Borjomi exports.
In 2013, the Russian company Alpha Group bought the bottling company for $300 million. The new owner – Russian billionaire oligarch Mikhail Fridman – is now under international sanctions over the war in Ukraine. So the production of mineral water was stopped.
On February 28, 2022, the European Union blacklisted him in connection with the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine and froze all his assets within the EU's reach.
Levan Davitashvili, Minister of Economy of Georgia:
"I can't go into details now, but the government is negotiating and we're looking at the legal options."
Interest in the health benefits of Borjomi spring water had been sparked by the Russian imperial authorities as early as 1825. During the Soviet period it was exported to other republics. And to this day, the factory is an important economic factor for Georgia.
Nino Lobzhanidze, economist:
"Borjomi is the face of mineral water in Georgia. That's what we're famous for. Mineral water is among the top ten Georgian export products. That's why it's crucial to save Borjomi and find a way out of this situation."
Borjomi factory employees, used to grief, continue to fear for their future. They want to protest until their jobs are saved.
Aleko Gvetadze, see below