Georgia’s Growing Berry Industry Creates Jobs and Increases Revenues
The USAID Agriculture Program, implemented in Georgia by Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA), aims to accelerate the growth of agricultural sub-sectors that demonstrate strong potential to create jobs and increase the revenues of micro, small and medium enterprises. This includes the country’s emerging berry value chain, which the Program has supported since 2018 by providing cost-shared grants and technical assistance to agribusinesses and growers in order to introduce agricultural best practices and modern berry varieties, facilitate international food safety certification, encourage linkages to domestic and export markets and strengthen firm-level capacity and access to vital inputs, services and logistics.
In 2022 — to ensure the sustainability of interventions that strengthen Georgia’s visibility in international markets, reduce its ties to unpredictable markets like Russia and contribute to the development of Georgia’s economy — the Program shifted its focus and tackled systems-level constraints to export preparedness and market diversification while delivering services through sustainable institutions, associations and private sector partners. Related efforts have also benefitted Georgia’s emerging berry value chain. In 2021, the Program partnered with TBC bank to hold Georgia’s first, large-scale Berry Forum, which convened local berry growers, financial institutions, Georgian government agencies and other sector experts to promote the visibility and competitiveness of the country’s berry industry. In collaboration with TBC Bank, the Program recently held the country’s second Berry Forum, which placed greater emphasis on access to export markets. The 2022 Forum successfully convened over 150 berry sector stakeholders from Georgia, Serbia, Portugal, Italy and Poland for an engaging dialogue on trends, improved growing practices, plant varieties, technologies and export market requirements.
Many important linkages were also made as a result of the forum. The Serbian manufacturer, BSK Air Technologies, connected with the Georgian company Farm Area Ltd to promote berry harvester equipment in Georgia and to organize a demonstration day that will help private companies make informed decisions when ordering equipment. Viveros California, a U.S.-based strawberry nursery with a representative office in Spain, received orders from Georgian growers for 12,000 seedlings of new strawberry varieties to use in demonstrations. Meanwhile, Hortitool Consulting established contracts with six Georgian berry growing companies for the provision of agronomic services. And based on discussions that occurred during the forum and best practices that were shared by international experts, the Government of Georgia’s Rural Development Agency decided to add in-pot blueberry production to “Plant the Future” — a program that supports primary agricultural production. After the Berry Forum, the U.S.-based global company Fall Creek also organized a demonstration day for more than 40 Georgian blueberry growers. To meet the country’s high demand for new blueberry varieties, the company intends to plant 390,000 modern varieties on about 120 ha of orchards.
Due in part to the Program’s support, the country’s berry value chain — particularly their blueberry, strawberry and raspberry industries — grew tremendously in recent years. Between 2019 and 2021, there was a 134% increase in production area, a 488% increase in export value and a 381% increase in export volume. The Program also facilitated the purchase of modern virus-free saplings, established demonstration plots to showcase new varieties, registered new protected berry varieties for local propagation, helped 19 berry growers obtain Global G.A.P. certification to facilitate market entry, paved the way for enhanced export market access for more than 20 blueberry growers and assisted six berry growers with participation in international trade fairs.
 Data from National Statistics Office of Georgia and the Rural Development Agency.