Sunday, July 21, 2024

EBRD and EU support olive farming in Georgia

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When you think of Georgia, one of the first things that springs to mind is its rich winemaking culture. However, hardworking entrepreneurs such as George Svanidze are also exploring new business avenues. In 2009, he planted his first olive grove and, despite the significant risks associated with his pilot venture, his farm now spans 1,500 hectares.  


Georgia’s olive growing and processing industry is on the rise, and that’s mainly due to the bold vision of businesspeople such as Mr Svanidze. Together with the European Union (EU), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has contributed to the industry’s success by funding the purchase of modern, efficient agricultural machinery.  


Olive success a recent phenomenon 

According to historical documents, olives were first recorded in Georgia in the first and second centuries CE, after the Greeks introduced them to the country. However, until recently, its olive-producing sector had received little attention. 


“”High quality, ideal climate and consumer interest, combined with government and international donor support, give us confidence that olives have a promising future in our country,” says Mr Svanidze. 


Over the past 15 years, Mr Svanidze’s company, Georgian Olive, has planted as many as 1 million olive trees in eastern Georgia and has built an olive processing factory in a local town. It produces high-quality, extra-virgin olive oil, as well as marinated green and black olives, which are sold in major supermarkets and supplied to major hotel chains. 


Tapping into Georgian Olive’s success, farmers nationwide have swiftly followed suit and now cultivate the crop on around 4,000 hectares of land across the country. Georgia has also joined the International Olive Council, which comprises the 48 biggest olive-producing countries. 


“Our land and climate provide a unique opportunity for the development of the olive industry,” Mr Svanidze says. “Both European and Asian markets are interested in our products. Whereas the Georgian market was saturated with imported products, now, about 20-30 per cent of the market is filled with our produce.” 


Better for livelihoods and the environment  


Georgian Olive is one of more than 300 companies that has benefited from the EU4Business-EBRD Credit Line, a joint initiative by the EBRD and the EU to support the growth of local small and medium-sized companies in Georgia and beyond. 


Under the programme, the EBRD helps companies to invest in new, modern machinery through partner financial institutions (TBC Bank in the case of Georgian Olive) to boost production volumes, efficiency and standards. The companies receive up to 15 per cent as a cashback incentive from the EU on successful completion of their investment, coupled with international technical assistance during the project.


The machinery Georgian Olive purchased with its loan helped it to shorten the time it took to cultivate its land, increasing productivity. This enabled the company to cut its costs and buy its first seedling planter equipped with a GPS system, which fully eliminated labour-intensive preliminary farming work. Previously, it took 2-3 days to manually cultivate 5-6 hectares; today, it takes just one day, dramatically increasing efficiency and making big plots of land more manageable.  


Locals make up most of the Georgian Olive workforce. Every year, the company hires between 100 and 150 individuals, boosting the well-being of local communities and contributing to regional development.  


“”It is very important that we create jobs in the region to prevent workforce migration to major cities or even other countries,” says Mr Svanidze. “We are also proud of our impact on the environment.” 


An olive orchard built on a formerly degraded plot of land has transformed the area into a bountiful landscape with consistent rainfall and fertile soil.  


Georgian Olive’s future looks bright. “With increased demand, we aim to increase our production while maintaining the same high quality,” Mr Svanidze concludes.  

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