11 April 2002 | David Arminas
British drinkers of Stolichnaya Red vodka are going without their favourite tipple.
Russian officials have confiscated nearly two million bottles of the vodka in its battle with Sojuzplodimport (SPI), which bought the brand's global rights from the government in 1992.
The dispute over who owns the copyright looks set to continue, according to Fiona Lovatt, marketing manager for First Drinks Brands, the vodka's sole UK distributor.
"We are working hard with SPI to get the supply back to normal," said Lovatt, who forecasts demand and orders Stolichnaya for First Drinks.
Gerald Aldridge, spirits buyer at off-licence group First Quench, which includes Thresher, Wine Rack and Victoria Wine, said Stolichnaya Red was becoming scarce.
He told SM: "The difficulty of finding it is now about nine on a scale of one to 10 because the sole distributor hasn't had any for weeks. But I managed to secure some from my contacts."
The disruption comes after UK supermarkets experienced shortages of honey caused by an EU-wide ban on Chinese imports found to contain traces of a cancer-causing antibiotic.
Around 50 per cent of UK honey normally comes from China, but buyers have now sourced enough from elsewhere to ease the shortage.