Agriculture is an important contributor to the economy of Guria. Most of those employed in agriculture are self-employed or work on their own family farms. The industry is facing a number of different challenges that need to be addressed properly under changing market conditions. At present, the most important task facing the agri-food sector is how to ensure rural and agricultural development through advanced technologies. The priority has been given to modernisation of agriculture and development of agricultural production.
Agricultural land resources
Most of the arable land is in the Kolkheti Lowlands. The soil and climate of Guria are favourable to crops that are difficult to grown in other regions of Georgia, with the exception of Samegrelo. Guria has favourable conditions to grow: tea, citrus, corn, vegetables, fruit, essential oils, chestnut crops and perennial grasses.
Cultivation of crops. The soil and climatic conditions of Guria are suitable for the cultivation of such plants as citrus, tea and berries (including blueberry), as well as for the production of various subtropical fruits, such as: persimmon, olive, pecan nuts, feijoa sellowiana, avocado, medlar and others. Not so long ago, production of technical woody crops, such as: bamboo, tung, laurels and eucalyptus – was carried out on a massive scale.
Maize, hazelnut, citrus, tea and fruit crops are planted over the largest area of cultivation, which indicates that these crops are of high priority. However, there is a need to introduce new promising perennial crops.
Among the annual crops, maize is the leading crop in all three municipalities of the Guria region (“white Adżamecka” species) with the largest cultivation area.
Hazelnuts started to be grown commercially in Guria in the 1990s. Hazelnuts have a number of advantages over other crops. In particular, they are cheap to grow and maintain, portable and can be sold on key markets. Sale of hazelnuts is one of the main sources of income for the local population. A large part of the capital invested in agricultural production in the region is allocated to the production of hazelnuts and processing plants. Guria offers good prospects of further development for this field of agriculture. In Guria, the area taken up by hazelnut crops is growing on a year-to-year basis at the expense of the remaining agricultural land and the conventional crops.
- Chestnuts and chestnut honey are one of the most expensive and beneficial products in the world.Chestnut production is recognised as having great potential for future growth in our region, especially in mountainous areas. Due to favourable soil and climatic conditions, this crop is considered as one of our strategic crops with high export potential.
Tea and citrus production in the region. Currently, there are several tea processing plants operating in Guria. Tea and citrus fruits are grown over the largest area in the region, but in recent years they have been gradually replaced by other crops.
Tea making. A year-on-year decline in tea production can be observed at both the regional and national levels. Only up to 1,000 tonnes of tea leaves are harvested annually from the remaining several hundred hectares of tea plantations.
In order to revitalise the tea industry, urgent measures and significant investments must be implemented (a stimulation package from the national budget).
It is important to maintain and increase the productivity of existing plantations as well as to improve the quality and competitiveness of ready-made tea.This is mainly achieved by a gradual shift to making ecologically sustainable and organic bio tea.
Gradual replacement of imported tea with local products at national level will facilitate the recovery of the tea sector, resulting in higher income per capita, reduced migration levels, etc.
This issue is crucial to the social and economic development of Guria and as such requires urgent attention.
There are currently 20 large and small tea processing plants in Guria.
The largest area of all citrus plantations in Gurri is occupied by mandarins (2,649 ha), lemons (206 ha) and oranges (123 ha). Citrus has been the most grown crop for many years due to favourable weather conditions of the region.
Setting up of tree nurseries and demonstration gardens is permitted under Guria laws. New seedlings of very early, early and late varieties that are resistant to disease and frost can be imported from abroad.
General information on several varieties that can be grown in the climate conditions of the region is presented below:
- Miyagawa wase (mandarin), yield: 30 tonnes per hectare, harvest time: from the second half of October to the first half of November.
- Hassaku (yellowish orange), yield: 30 tonnes per hectare, harvest time: December, fruit weight: 250-300 grams.
- Morita Navel (sweet orange ), yield: 30 tonnes per hectare, harvest time: December, fruit weight: 250 grams and more. The industry is dealing with the problem of citrus pests and diseases such as: silver tick, citrus rust mite, brown marmorated stink bug, parch, roughness, etc., which cause significant losses for the citrus growers.
Subtropical crops, such as: laurel, bamboo, eucalyptus, tung, feijoa sellowiana, persimmon, etc. are much less common in Guria, but are grown, to a limited extent, in all three municipalities. As with other perennial crops, such as grapevines or fruit species, these crops are primarily intended as self-sufficient farming and only a relatively small portion of them is sold. Among the subtropical crops, kiwi is a promising one. Kiwi plantations can be found in all three municipalities. Despite this, kiwi plantations are much less common than those of hazelnuts. The inhabitants of Guria usually grow kiwi over an area of 200-300 m2. Kiwi plantations in the region cover a total of approx. 100-120 ha, with an average yield of 25 tonnes per 1 ha.
Blueberry is also a promising crop. It is cultivated on a 5 ha demonstration plot in Narudża. It is also grown by the private company “Vanrik” on a 60 ha plot in the town of Laituri. This crop has adapted well to the local conditions. There are plans to designate an area of several hundred hectares as a blueberry growing area.
- Greenhouses can be found in all three municipalities of the Guria region.According to the 2017 data, there are around 30 greenhouses in the region where cucumbers, tomatoes and other vegetable crops are grown. They also flower greenhouses in the region.
Animal breeding. Cattle breeding is widespread in all three municipalities of the region. Some farms engage in pasture breeding. In late spring, the owners chase their cattle to alpine pastures high in the mountains. Artificial insemination techniques are gradually being implemented with a view to increase cattle productivity.
Pig breeding is widespread in all three municipalities and constitutes an important source of income for the local population.Small poultry farms specialising in the production of poultry meat operate in the municipalities of Ozurgeti and Lanchkhuti.
Fish farming Even though Guria occupies a small area, it has an abundance of water resources. The rivers are still home to considerable numbers of valuable fish species. The rivers with their numerous tributaries facilitate the development of fish farms, including trout farms. Currently, there are 64 breeding ponds for trout and 10 trout farms operating in the region which produce, respectively, 83 tonnes of various fish species and 310 tonnes of trout. The region’s leading trout farm, S. z O. O. „Agia”, is located in the village of Vakijvari. It has 50 ponds and pools with a total area of 1 ha. The water resource of this fish farm is the Natanebi River. Due to favourable weather conditions (air and water temperature, environment, altitude), “Agia” has an annual production capacity of 250 tonnes of trout and 3 tonnes of caviar. Next year, the company plans to produce 350 tonnes of trout and 4 tonnes of caviar. There are plans to further expand the company and increase its production capacity. The trout farm S. z O. O. “Sakpichi” in the village of Likhauri has a promising economic future. It currently produces 5-8 tonnes of trout per year. A significant increase in production is planned. The water resource of the farm is the Achistskali River.
Production capacity in the fish farming industry is expected to grow in the near future. Reconstruction and renovation work is currently underway in the former trout farm in the village of Makvaneti. After completion of the work, the trout farm is expected to have a production capacity of 100 tonnes. There are 2 trout farms in the Chokhatauri Municipality that employ 17 people and produce up to 70 tonnes of trout. The production output is sold mainly on the local market.
The natural conditions prevailing in this area are favorable for beekeeping activities. Beekeeping is currently one of the biggest contributors to the Guria economy.
International organisations play an important role in shaping the agricultural policy of Guria. The plants and companies operating in the Guria region have already received assistance from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), under the Regional Economic Assistance Projects (REAP) and the Programme for Agriculture and Rural Development (ENPARD) to help them build a commercially sustainable business.
Agriculture and logistics, new technologies, stimulation systems and mechanisms
A certain portion of the region’s agricultural produce (mainly citrus fruits and hazelnuts) is processed on site. About 120 of such enterprises are currently operating in the region, many of them on a temporary or part-time basis. There are processing companies for hazelnut, citrus and tea, bakery companies, apiaries as well as small private milk processing and production companies operating in Guria.
Support Centres for Farmers
The information and consultancy centre of the Ministry of Agriculture in Georgia operates in two municipalities of the region (Lanchkhuti and Chokhatauri). The Regional Branch for Guria in Ozureti coordinates the work of all offices under the Ministry of Agriculture. There are also around 50 private support centres for farmer operating in Guria, of which three are relatively large in size. The consulting services are provided free of charge. These centres serve all categories of farmers operating in the horticulture industry. There are 21 veterinary pharmacies with qualified consultants in the region (Ozurgeti – 11, Lanchkhuti – 6, Chokhatauri – 4). These pharmacies also provide consulting services free of charge.
As for the assortment, the pharmacies sell veterinary drugs and various animal breeding equipment (beehives, various tools, etc.). The support centres for farmers sell agrochemicals, machinery and equipment.
Refrigeration and warehousing
There are 12 refrigerated warehouses in Guria.
Experimental farms – in 2012, plots with an area of 4.8 ha with up to ten varieties of blueberries were made available in the Ozurgeti Municipality for demonstration purposes. A 1 ha demonstration plot with several varieties of citrus is to be set up in this area. The best fruit will be sold and distributed.
Production for export and investment – in the past, most of the agricultural products grown in Guria were exported. The main exports were tea and citrus, various fruit juices, essential oils, oil plants and others. Currently, the agricultural activity is mainly export-oriented and growing at a steady pace. Farmers seek to ensure that their products meet the EU requirements.
Food safety – the quarantine plant protection measures are being implemented in the region under a dedicated state programme. The programme provides funding for the biological and chemical to control particularly dangerous quarantine pests, brown marmorated stink bugs and American butterflies. The phytosanitary policy on agricultural land and the pest spread forecasts continue to be implemented. Solutions are being developed to control these pests. Phytosanitary quarantine inspections are carried out, with phytosanitary certificates being issued for export goods that are placed in quarantine. In the field of veterinary medicine, preventive and therapeutic actions, as well as depopulation measures, are carried out to combat the most deadly animal diseases. Private veterinary activities are coordinated and supervised. Veterinary certificates are issued in accordance with the requirements of competent authorities. Food products and drinking water are purchased and tested on a regular basis for monitoring purposes.