UNSTOPPABLE KVAS: The Estonian kvas drink Linnuse Kali has reached Africa, with the Coca-Cola Company testing the popular Baltic beverage in Nigeria and Morocco. "Besides the African division, Hungary and at the end of last week Bahrain asked for information about kvas," Kerttu Olmann-Mois, head of foreign relations at Coca-Cola's Baltic branch, told the daily Eesti Paevaleht last week. Olmann-Mois was unable to say under what trade mark the kvas might hit the African market. In Latvia the product can be bought under the name of Pilskalna Kvass, or Castle Kvas, while on the Lithuanian market the beverage is sold as Bajoru Gira or Boyars Kvas. Last June Coca-Cola bought the Linnuse Kali and Pilskalna Kvass trade marks from Oesel Foods for slightly more than 20 million kroons ($1.14 million).
OVER THE SEA TO SAAREMAA: The mayor of Kuressaare, capital of Estonia's Saaremaa Island, believes the Latvian capital Riga has great potential as a source of visitors to the island and is encouraging efforts to open a regular ferry line between Riga and Roomassaare port near Kuressaare. The cost of living in Riga is 25 percent higher than in the Estonian capital Tallinn and the contrast with Kuressaare is even greater, said Kuressaare Mayor Jaanus Tamkivi. "The level of consumption of people from Riga would surpass that of our own domestic tourists and would certainly motivate Saaremaa tourism service providers," he said. In order to see such a service established the city of Kuressaare "can help businesses establish contacts and, if necessary, will seek support from the state," the mayor said. Tullio Liblik, businessman and member of the Saaremaa Rotary Club, said establishing a ferry line had been discussed during a visit by the club to Riga last fall. He called for a viability study to be conducted as previous attempts to launch a regular boat connection between Riga and Saaremaa had ended in failure.
INFLAMMATORY?: The Lithuanian government has authorized publication of a set of documents and correspondence relating to the negotiations on the sale of shares in the national oil company Mazeikiu Nafta between 1997 and 1999, the government's press service said on Jan. 18. In 1999 the U.S.-based company Williams International acquired a 33 percent stake in Mazeikiu Nafta and operational control of the Lithuanian oil complex. The deal has been sharply criticized by many Lithuanian politicians as disadvantageous to Lithuania. Under the authorization document the government is not obliged to compile the sale documents and does not vouch for their authenticity and accuracy. It retains the right to make public comments on the course of the 1997-1999 negotiations and related documents in future, the press service said.
TOP MARKS FOR LITHUANIA: The executive board of the International Monetary Fund has completed its first review of Lithuania's economic performance under a 19-month standby arrangement, the IMF said on Jan. 17. Completion of the review makes another disbursement of about $15 million available to Lithuania, bringing the total amount available from the IMF to approximately $30 million. The 19-month standby credit was approved on Aug. 30, 2001 for a total of about $108 million. Lithuania has not drawn from the available IMF resources so far. Shigemitsu Sugisaki, IMF deputy managing director and acting chairman, commented: "The Lithuanian authorities are to be commended for the continued successful implementation of their economic program, which has contributed substantially to the economy's progress over the last year. Growth was strong, the current account deficit declined further and inflation remained subdued, although unemployment continues to be high. Structural reforms advanced across a range of areas, including energy sector restructuring, privatization and fiscal management. Preparations for EU accession have also proceeded at a fast pace." Sugisaki added that the government's tax reform package represented an important step toward establishing a more transparent and efficient tax system, which should help stabilize its revenues over the medium term. He also welcomed the planned repegging of the litas to the euro in early February and noted that preparations for the shift had proceeded smoothly.
TRADERS FEEL THE CHILL: The Estonian capital's open-air markets have been hit by competition from a rash of discount stores that have sprung up recently causing old fashioned markets see their share of the retail sector drop from 52 percent to 29 percent in two years, a survey by the AS Emor research company shows. Finnish retail groups have been particularly successful in pioneering discount store shopping, said Emor project manager Katre Valgma, presenting the research on Jan. 16. The success of the new Saastumarket chain of discount outlets in Tallinn in 2001 pushed the market share of such stores to 16 percent. Alongside the discount stores, hypermarkets continue to gain in popularity in the Estonian capital. Similar trends can be seen in Estonia's second largest city Tartu, which saw its first hypermarket open last year.