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Georgian apple of discord11.02.2013 | 18:42
In Gori district of Georgia, thousands of tons of apples ripened last fall. Today most of the abundant harvest is rotting in the basements due to one simple reason - there is no one to buy it. The local market is full of apples. For the farmers of Central Georgia there are two ways out - reduction of the export rates of Georgian apples abroad, but the main thing is the opening of the Russian market.
In the film "Earth" by Dovzhenko there is an episode in which the overripe apples are falling to the ground. No one will eat these apples: they fertilize the soil thus giving birth to new apples. Farmers in central Georgia are in a similar situation.
Agricultural products grown in Georgia, have always differed with high taste quality, which was due to the climatic conditions in the country. Among the regions of Georgia, engaged in the production of fruits and vegetables, the Gori District is particularly notable. The natural conditions of the region are particularly favorable for growing high-quality apples. "Golden delicacy" with melon flavor, sour "Champagne rennet" and local "Kehura" - this is not a complete list of all the varieties of apples growing here.
But once an advantage, and now rather a problem is that there really a lot of apples. Even half of the crop cannot be sold inside the country, and the closest promising market is Russia, which is still closed for Gori apples. They can sell the products to other neighboring countries, but the shipment is very expensive.
Farmers have to survive from 2006, when the Russian market was closed. Since then, they have become quite good experts in agricultural problems. For example, Vaja Gnolidze, who may be forced to uproot the orchards.
"One hectare gave me 7.6 tons of apples. We have no market for the fruit, except the local one. After we lost the Russian market in 2006, the entire crop remains in Georgia, respectively, there are problems with sale of fruits and with the prices. Apples for processing cost 10 tetri per kilogram. Those who are in need have to sell the apples at this price. I prefer to use them feed the livestock; it is more profitable for me. Previously, I brought the apples of first rank in a big city; it took 4-5 days, and in addition the shipment price and other expenses. Growth of apples is expensive: plowing, pruning, tractor hiring, buying chemicals - all it costs about 3000 GEL. Profits amounts 4500 - 5000 GEL. After covering the costs only 1-2 thousand remains, which is insufficient to feed a family. Every spring I take a loan".
The most expensive apples cost about 1.5-2 GEL (15-30 rubles). Farmers cannot raise the price. Number of apples far exceeds the demand; in addition there are imported products, which also hinder the sale of local fruits.
"I have a 20 year experience in trading apples and advise the Georgian customs service to revise customs conditions, as well as to wonder about the price of shipment of a ton of apples to Armenia, Azerbaijan or Ukraine", said Gnolidze. "The price of shipment of one ton apples to these countries amounts 500 -700 GEL. Shipment of five tons will cost 2-3 thousand dollars. This amount is huge for each farmer. I cannot believe that we have in the whole country there is no clever economist who could understand that such expensive customs service hampers the products export. For example, I do not mind the Russian market. But the reduction of customs rate on the export of Georgian apples can be interesting for both Azerbaijan and Armenia. Prices for the products are being reduced by the enterprises involved in the processing of fruit. In addition, there are cartel agreements, specifically reducing the price of apples. They should abolish them", said the farmer.
Now this year's harvest is rotting in warehouses. "Come in the spring, and you can see the number of rotten apples I have to throw in the Liakhvi River. Majority of the people in Georgia are in need, they cannot afford buying apples, for many it is a luxury. People think as follows: it's better to buy 2 kilo of potatoes and bread. For us, apples and peaches are the only way to survive", says our hero Vaja Gnolidze.
This year, they are expecting a good crop of apples. Part of the gardens is carved out, but the farmers are hoping that life will improve.