A multi-million dollar blueberry plantation and processing plant will soon be established in Georgia in a bid to counter Europe’s high demand of blueberries. And the increase in exports will offer a much-needed boost to the country’s economy, said Agriculture Minister Otar Danelia.
The new blueberry plantation and processing plant would offer jobs to about 400 people and be developed on a 70ha piece of land in Laituri village, Guria region in Georgia’s west. At this site the blueberries will be washed, assorted, snap frozen and prepared to be transported and sold in the European market.
Once the plantation is up and running, 90% of Georgia’s exported blueberries will head to Western Europe. Blueberries will be the second Georgian product to feature in the European market, after kiwifruit.
The $6.7 million (15 million GEL) facility will be established by the state-owned shareholding company, the Partnership Fund (PF) together with local blueberry producers Vanrik Agro.
“The project is focused on building the export capacity of enterprises. Such activities will contribute in attracting foreign direct investments (FDI) in Georgia”, said Archi Paichadze of Vanrik Agro.
“[Despite this] it is still very important for us to provide the local market with blueberries as well. I hope this product will be appreciated and [blueberries will be] in demand in Georgia soon like they are in Europe now”, he said.
Vanrik Agro was established in 2011. The company owns a blueberry plantation on a 50ha section in Laituri village in Georgia’s west.
Georgia’s Agriculture Minister said the project would increase Georgia’s blueberry export capacity but the true goal of the project was to support local businesses and the agricultural sector in general.
It will cost about $6.7 million to implement the project. The PF will contribute 2.2 million to the project. In three to five years, the fund will leave the project, once it is assured the project is running successfully. Then the PF will find a partner who will replace it and continue supporting the project.
Officials said the project will employ around 400 locals; about 100 will be hired full time and 300 will be employed seasonally. Initially 150 people will be employed and the minimum salary of staff will be 400 GEL per month.
Supporting the agriculture sector in Georgia was a part of the government’s strategy. This was the second project PF has implemented in the country’s agricultural sector.
“By supporting and implementing such projects, we contribute in strengthening the agriculture field and economy in general. This will be another successful project in the portfolio of Partnership Fund”, said executive director of the PF Irakli Kovzanadze.
He said the fund would also play a significant role in promoting Georgian products abroad.
Agriculture Minister Otar Danelia said blueberries were a good example of how the agriculture industry could boost the economy.
“Setting up a blueberry plantation is very beneficial for two reasons. One is that Georgia has a very serious imbalance in export-import statistics. The second reason is that Guria region, where the plantation will be developed, is a very poor region of Georgia where economic activities are very low. This region really needs our support”, Danelia said.
“There is the third reason as well, which is about diversifying our export markets. We know what challenges Ukraine currently faces. And Ukraine is our trade partner. We also see how these processes affected our export capacity, economy and our national currency, the Lari”, he said.
“Blueberries will be cultivated in order to be exported to Western Europe. [The returns] will be a nice contribution to the Georgian economy”, Danelia added.
The project was supported by German international cooperation agency GiZ and Khalik Bank (a subsidiary of the joint stock company Halyk Bank of Kazakhstan). (Fresh-market/Business World Magazine)
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