04 Oct 2022

Georgia's berry industry grows thanks to USAID programme

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On September 14-15, the USAID Agricultural Program, in cooperation with TBC (Central Bank of Georgia), hosted theInternational Berry Forum for the first time in Batumi, Georgia.

Georgia map

In Georgia, a former Soviet state located on the Eurasian-Asian border and with a long-standing agricultural tradition, there are now about 3,000 hectares of berries cultivated land, and the forum provided an opportunity for specialists and experts in the field to gather and discuss challenges, which will help increase the competitiveness of the local berries industry and strengthen Georgia's position as a berry-producing country.

Georgian and international experts who participated in the forum (from Serbia, Italy, Portugal, and Poland) shared their experience on methods of growing berries, discussed modern agrotechnologies, problems faced by berries producers, and export opportunities for their product.

In addition, marketing tools that can be used to increase the competitiveness of the berry crop sector were discussed.

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Participants learned about the best funding mechanisms for berry culture and received information on best practices and support.

GEORGIA'S POTENTIAL

Agriculture is a vital sector for Georgia's economy, and berries are a valuable export crop! USAID invests in Georgia's berry sector to help it become a sustainable, high-value industry that can support rural families.

With USAID's assistance, Georgia's berry industry has grown significantly in recent years, and now more than 80 percent of locally produced blueberries is exported. USAID has helped growers obtain international food safety certifications, modernize their branding, and connect with buyers in new international markets.

USAID/Georgia mission director John Pennell attended the 2nd Annual International Berry Forum in Batumi. He discussed the importance of supporting innovation in the berry sector and helping connect farmers with buyers in lucrative international markets.

John Pennell, USAID/Georgia director.


Through several years of international collaboration, the berries sector has grown and the results are evident. The first industrial orchards were organized in 2015, and today there are about 3,000 hectares of commercial orchards of blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries in Georgia . In August 2022, the harvest reached about 2,500 tons. Events such as the International Berry Forum will only help the industry grow faster. 

Italian Berry exclusively interviewed Louisa Namicheishvili, Chief of Party of the USAID Agricultural Program, a U.S. government agency that focuses on developing specific horticulture sectors with the aim of creating jobs and increasing rural business incomes.

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What is the International Berry Forum?

The International Berry Forum is an event that brings together experts and professionals from the berry industry, government representatives, and international organizations to discuss challenges, opportunities, and solutions to improve the berry sector. It also facilitates knowledge sharing to stimulate further growth of the industry and improve Georgia's visibility in export markets. 

Why was it held in Batumi, Georgia?

The area of berries is dominated by blueberries, which is grown mainly in the regions of western Georgia. Batumi, located on the west coast near the Black Sea, is also one of the most beautiful cities in Georgia. In general, nearly 70 percent of all berries growers in Georgia operate in the western part.  

What were the goals of the event?

The main objective of this forum was to connect local stakeholders in the berries sector with international partners and experts to discuss challenges and opportunities for increasing the competitiveness of the berries sector and improving Georgia's position as a producer country berries.

The event also aimed to enable the exchange of information between local producers and international experts, thus fostering informed investment in the sector.

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Will we ever see another such event in the future?

There is a strong demand for information on modern agricultural technologies, best cultivation practices and market trends in the berries sector. The USAID Agriculture Program organized the first forum on berries in 2021 and hopes to organize another in 2023.

To this end, the USAID Agricultural Program will work closely with the Georgian Farmers Association at berries and TBC Bank, one of Georgia's largest financial institutions, to ensure that this becomes an annual event to be held even after the USAID Agricultural Program is completed.  

How much has the berries sector grown so far in Georgia?

The berry sector-particularly the sub-sectors of blueberries, strawberries and raspberries-has experienced tremendous growth in Georgia. Much of this growth can be attributed to state and donor-funded programs, including the USAID agricultural program. Between 2019 and 2021, there was a 134 percent increase in production area, 488 percent increase in export value, and 381 percent increase in export volume.  

USAID has supported the berry sector in Georgia since 2002 through various projects, introducing modern growing practices, post-harvest handling infrastructure, implementing quality and safety infrastructure (GlobalGap, HACCP certificates), participating in international trade fairs, and organizing institutionalized formal training courses.

What do you think about the future of the berries industry in Georgia?

As the sector grows and expands, new opportunities open up, and USAID's Agriculture Program continues to find ways to support it. Diversification of export markets and trade facilitation have become a key objective and there is a greater need for international linkages, improved varieties and product quality.

Do you think the event achieved its goals?

The forum offered berries producers an excellent opportunity to improve their understanding of modern technologies and market trends. Presentations and panel discussions were led by local and international experts and covered various topics relevant to local producers. The event was also successful in facilitating connections among stakeholders, helping them to expand their networks both locally and internationally.

All stakeholders had the opportunity to share their views on the most pressing challenges in the berries sector and discuss possible solutions and opportunities for growth. Overall, the feedback from participants was very positive. 

Are you satisfied with the results?

Our experience has shown that events such as the International Berry Forum are invaluable in facilitating connections, dialogue and cooperation among different stakeholders to address specific challenges.

For example, the Forum brought together public and private sector representatives as well as international partners and experts from Serbia, Italy, Portugal, Spain and the United States, all of whom are ready to invest in increasing the competitiveness of the sector both locally and internationally. 

How many people did the event reach?

About 200 people attended the forum, including growers, agribusinesses, Georgian government representatives, and local and international experts.

How many speakers and how many specialists participated in the event?

The forum included sessions on the berries sector in general and separate group sessions on specific crops (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries). More than 20 invited experts gave presentations on different topics in each of these subsectors. Each presentation was followed by discussions with questions and answers from the audience. 


To go deeper:

What is the USAID program?

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is a U.S. government agency that leads international development and humanitarian efforts to save lives, reduce poverty, strengthen democracy, and help people advance beyond assistance. USAID's work advances U.S. national security and economic prosperity, demonstrates American generosity, and promotes a path to self-sufficiency and resilience for recipients. USAID has had a presence in Georgia for more than 30 years and implements programs through comprehensive partnerships and investments in areas such as agriculture.

What are the goals of USAID?

USAID works in more than 100 countries around the world to increase global stability by addressing the root causes of violence, opening new markets and generating trade opportunities. USAID creates innovative solutions to once unsolvable development problems, saves lives and promotes democracy, governance and peace. This, in turn, helps improve livelihoods, living standards, security, and socio-economic standards, helping communities thrive. 

Are there other projects like USAID's in the world?

Many of the world's largest and most developed nations have their own international development aid programs with similar goals and values. However, USAID is the largest and most far-reaching. Individual USAID projects (such as the USAID Agriculture Program) are currently active in Africa, Asia, Europe and Eurasia, Latin America, the Caribbean and the Middle East.  

When did the USAID program start?

USAID's Agriculture Program is a five-year activity that began in September 2018 with the goal of accelerating the growth of agricultural subsectors that show strong potential for job creation, income improvement and increased revenues for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises.

The USAID Agriculture Program is implemented by Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA), a U.S.-based international development organization with a mission to stimulate economic growth and improve livelihoods by cultivating entrepreneurship. 


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