Celebrating the Recovery of the Georgian Hazelnut Crop

Georgia celebrated high-yields for its 2020 hazelnut harvest following successful interventions from the USAID-funded Georgia Hazelnut Improvement Project (G-HIP) to combat the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB).

Georgian hazelnut harvest

In 2014, Georgia produced thirty-five thousand tons of hazelnuts and generated $186 million [1]in exports of hazelnuts worldwide. But in 2016, production declined dramatically due to the onset of the BMSB infestation which devastated the hazelnut sector in the region. In response, the government launched a campaign to control the BMSB population with the joint efforts of partners such as United States Agency for International Development (USAID), governmental agencies, farmers, researchers and the private sector. One of these partners, the Georgian Hazelnut improvement Project (G-HIP), a Global Development Alliance (GDA) between USAID, AgriGeorgia/Ferrero and Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA), leveraged the technical and financial resources of each partner to broaden, deepen and advance the public and private sector development of the hazelnut sector. This collaborative effort led to significant progress in the production of hazelnuts, allowing the sector to recover from the effects of the 2016–2017 BMSB infestation.

To celebrate the recovery of the Georgian hazelnut crop, the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture of Georgia (MEPA) and USAID organized the first annual Hazelnut Festival to observe the diligence of farmers and other stakeholders in combating the pest and improving hazelnut quality and quantity. During the event held in Samegrelo and Zugdidi this fall, the Prime Minister of Georgia expressed his belief that with continued good work, Georgian hazelnut farmers have the potential to produce a crop of 100,000 tons of quality hazelnuts in the next three to five years. The event — which brought together key sector partners such as hazelnut producers and processors, the Georgian Hazelnut Growers Association (GHGA), and governmental agencies — reflected a strong sense of national pride stemming from the success of smallholder farmers and the cultivation of local, quality horticultural products.

Georgian Prime Minister Speaking at 2020 Hazelnut Festival

G-HIP worked closely with AgriGeorgia/Ferrero, MEPA, and the National Food Agency (NFA), along with Grzegorz Krawczyk, Ph.D. — an extension tree fruit entomologist at the Pennsylvania State University who served as an expert entomologist on the technical working committee organized by the NFA to combat the BMSB infestation. Dr. Krawczyk provided his expert opinion and coordinated a strategy with stakeholders on monitoring, measuring and controlling the pest. In addition, he provided expert opinion on the gaps in physical and human resources required for implementing the proposed strategy. The group then initiated an action plan to implement the strategy in short, medium and long-term phases.

“The success of our work is based on the strong foundation of sharing critical information and working closely with G-HIP’s network of government and private sector partners to detect and control this destructive pest,” noted Dr. Krawczyk.

USAID and G-HIP also collaborated to procure 104,000 dual lures and traps produced by the U.S.-based company Trécé Inc., a U.S. manufacturer of pheromone-based monitoring and control products. The lures were used to monitor BMSB and establish environmentally-friendly “Attract and Kill” stations in 500 villages in the Samegrelo, Guria, Imereti, and Adjara regions, covering more than 60,000 hectares of hazelnut orchards and reducing the direct chemical treatment of these areas.

USAID/G-HIP procurement of Trécé Inc. BMSB lures

This initiative represents a significant milestone for the Georgian agricultural sector in that its development, planning, financing and implementation has been based on the joint participation of both the public and private sectors. With their support, the hazelnut sector has been gradually recovering and the 2020–2021 harvest is expected to reach fifty thousand tons, exceeding the previous year’s crop by 30%.

“As one of the country’s primary exports, hazelnut production is an essential part of Georgia’s economy — supporting the livelihoods of more than fifty-thousand growers and processors. This year’s Hazelnut Festival represents the success that USAID, G-HIP and the Government of Georgia have had in combating the BMSB outbreak while continuing the support to the growth of the hazelnut sector,” said G-HIP Chief of Party, George Managadze.

[1] GeoStat: National Statistics Office of Georgia, https://www.geostat.ge/en/modules/categories/637/export

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