Creating Farmers Unions could help develop Georgian agriculture, experts suggest
By Mzia Kupunia
Wednesday, August 4Agriculture is considered as one of the most prospective fields in Georgia, however at the moment it is experiencing certain serious problems. The experts and farmers name the lack of farmers' unions as the main problem of agriculture sector in the country. Specialists name several possible reasons for the inexistence of farmer unions and suggest that a tight cooperation between the state and the farmers could solve the issue.
The consultant for UN Food and Agriculture Programme, Rati Shavgulidze said that the lack of communication between farmers greatly contributes to hindering the development of agriculture in Georgia. “A lot can be done through joint effort. Farmers' unions have many advantages, including economic ones, affecting production expenditure. Obviously the expenses on a small piece of land are much greater more than on a big one. By establishing farmers' unions, it would be possible to cut production expenditure, consequently consumers will be able to buy agricultural products at a cheaper price,” Shavgulidze said.
The Rural Development Program Coordinator at Georgian Institute of Public Affairs, Davit Tamarashvili said that the “lack of education and communication culture” between Georgian farmers hinders the creation of farmers' unions in the country. “Right now the issue of establishing farmer unions in Georgia is rather acute. It is obvious, that the greater the number of fertilizers, pesticides, fuel or any other goods purchased, the less the cost. However, unfortunately the low level of education and lack of communication culture creates problems in establishing such unions,” Tamarashvili noted. “When you know where competition ends and where common interests begin, you cooperate with the farmers' union and the necessity emerges to unite several farms However it is not that easy,” he added.
NGO Georgian Farmers' Union has up to 25,000 farmers, agriculture firms, cooperatives and agriculture enterprises. The President of the organization, Raul Babunashvili said that the state should make a lot of effort to establish farmers' unions. “Only a mechanical union will not give any positive results. In order to develop the agricultural sphere, more initiative is needed from the government. There is a need to equip our farmers technically. It is also crucial to unite the farms according to some common principle – this could be a joint service center, which should be created through the cooperation of the farmers and the state,” Babunashvili noted.
The President of Georgian Farmers' Union said there are several farmers' unions in Georgia, which are “quite successful”. “These kinds of unions are usually created with the help of international organizations. One is located in Kareli region. A farmers' union created the first modern garden in Georgia with the help of German technical assistance society GTZ. The apples grown in this garden have already been exported from Georgia. It means that if there is help from the government as well as from international organizations our farmers will be able to achieve positive results,” Babunashvili noted.
Officials at the Ministry of Agriculture say that the Ministry is working on a new strategy to tackle problems in the agriculture sphere. The head of the Agriculture Development Department, Kote Kobakhidze noted that the strategy will focus on cutting down the production costs by raising the knowledge of the farmers. “Our major priority is to decrease production costs. That’s why we have developed a program of intensification, which serves to raise the farmers' awareness and knowledge,” Kobakhidze stated. According to him the new strategy on which the Agriculture Ministry is currently working, will be oriented on the priority directions of the development of the field.