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Wheat problem solved – for now

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, September 2
The fluctuation in the prices of consumer goods has been regulated; following the rapid rise in the price of wheat, the economic situation is under the government's control and from September 9 wheat seed will be imported from the US. This will increase wheat productivity in the country - President of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili stated during a meeting with the Prime Minister Nika Gilauri and other officials at the Presidential Palace in Avlabari on August 31.

“The threat that the price rise might affect other products has been removed for the present moment. The situation is under the Authority's control and we are holding negotiations with America, Ukraine and Kazakhstan concerning the issue,” Saakashvili said.

The Ambassador of Georgia to Ukraine, Grigol Katamadze stated that negotiations with Ukraine on wheat exports to Georgia were completed successfully. “The government of Ukraine is prepared to sell 150,000 tones of wheat to Georgia if requested. The price of wheat has increased by 50% in Ukraine and it costs 250-300 dollar per tonne, but the actual price of wheat for Georgia will be set following negotiations between the Georgian and Ukrainian authorities,” Katamadze said.

The wheat supply inside the country has increased compared with last year; however it is not enough, according to the Governor of Kakheti region, Giorgi Ghviniashvili. He said, “This is despite the very hot weather this year, which caused a reduction in productivity. The seed was also of poor quality – another reason for the unenviable harvest. So good seed imported from the US, which we previously used in 2001 with an extremely nice outcome, will significantly increase the wheat supply in Georgia.” The President also commented that very soon Georgia should not be dependent on foreign markets for this kind of product, stating, “Actually Georgia can produce the required amount of wheat. Just as with our energy sector, where we have succeeded in producing enough electricity from our own resources, we can do the same with wheat and we should work actively for this.”

One of the leaders of the Labour Party, Nestan Kirtadze told The Messenger, the party has suggested several times to the authority to adopt a law on fixing prices on everyday items, however the request has always been ignored. “When, according to UN research there are more than 1.8 million extremely poor families in the country; when unemployment remains Georgia's biggest issue, when there are so many refugees in the country, whose rights are being violated, the government refuses to adopt a law on fixing prices on everyday products, threatening its people with starvation. If we adopted this law, money will be allocated from the state budget and prices will be fixed on four everyday products, namely bread, sugar, oil and buckwheat. Everything the present authority is doing now is a PR stunt. Nothing will come of it until they pay attention to the basic problems in the country and react accordingly,” Kirtadze said.

According to analyst Gia Khukhashvili, the Authority should refrain from making a PR stunt out of this issue and rather than react to problems as they occur, they should make systemic changes. “It is characteristic of our authority to react to an issue, only after it becomes a problem. There is always a threat of a price hike on a product such as wheat might, especially when you are depended on foreign imports. If you are really interested in the issue and how these kinds of problems can be solved, you would think about how to improve agriculture and create enough supply within the country, especially when there are natural ways to do so. Systemic changes are needed, our authorities should realize that turning an issue into a PR stunt is inadequate,” Khukhashvili said.