12 March, 2019
Today, Fruits and Berries of Georgia: Efficiency of Production and Marketing convened local producers in Tbilisi. The conference was organized by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and supported by the European Union under its EU4Business initiative and Georgia’s Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture.
Attracting producers from Georgia, the event focused on helping local growers take advantage of numerous investment and market opportunities, both locally and internationally, by sharing best practices in apple, pear and berry production, storage, handling and marketing.
According to Mr Stig Kjeldsen, cooperation officer at the Delegation of the European Union to Georgia: “We believe that the production of fruits and berries has some unused economic potential in Georgia. Through this project, we are assisting SMEs in seizing the opportunities provided by the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA)."
Berry production on the up
Nina Kuzmina from EBRD’s Agribusiness Department said, “Producers need support in identifying markets as well as business opportunities to market their products. New, as well as traditional markets are developing towards modern retail formats, which demand higher standards of post-harvest handling and food safety.”
Berry production in Georgia is intensifying and by 2020 intensive berry orchards are expected to span 1,000 hectares. Existing infrastructure, however, cannot cope with this increase and shortfalls already arise in storing and sorting products.
According to Andriy Yarmak, FAO economist, “Georgia was a pioneer in blueberry production in the region but now it is time to upgrade the varieties, production and PHH technologies, logistics and marketing as the market becomes more saturated and margins decline. Growers should consider other berries too and explore air logistics opportunities.”
Apples and pears
Georgia has been a net importer of apples for many years but growing domestic production has helped satisfy local demand and apple producers are beginning to explore export markets. The natural choice is Russia, which is the only large importer of apples in the region.
According to Yarmak, “This is the first year in which Georgia has exported fresh apples due to supply finally exceeding local demand. However, the current mix of varieties of Georgian apple orchards makes it rather difficult to consider exports beyond Russia as Russian markets are becoming more and more saturated. To find new markets Georgian farmers would have to explore new, internationally recognized varieties of apples, and invest into modern growing, storage and Post-harvest handling technologies, which may take some time.”
As for pears, import volumes are increasing each year signalling the size of local demand, however production is limited. To meet local demand, local producers need to develop knowhow to improve production standards, increase cold storage facilities and adopt modern and more marketable varieties.
Investment opportunities identified
The conference was followed by training sessions on modern production techniques, storage and marketing of apples and pears in Georgia, and berry production. Tomorrow meanwhile, the delegation will visit an intensive apple orchard and modern cold storage facility in Georgia’s Mtskheta region – Khichateli Ltd – where they will also learn pruning methods.
Next up, berry producers from Georgia will participate in a study tour to Ukraine to continue to learn from their peers.
The event was part of a joint EU-EBRD-FAO project that also supports Moldova and Tajikistan and is aimed at improving high-value trade opportunities in horticulture.
The European Union’s EU4Business initiative is an umbrella initiative that covers all EU activities supporting SMEs in the Eastern Partnership countries.EU4Business includes 43 projects in the Eastern Partnership region, implemented both on a regional and bilateral level. The overall active portfolio amounts to almost EUR 320 million of EU support under EU4Business, and has triggered a total of more than EUR 1.96 billion of loans granted by partner banks to SMEs in the region. More info: http://www.eu4business.eu
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