It’s Peach Season in Kakheti

The peach harvest has begun in Georgia’s eastern Kakheti region.

Commersant is reporting that, although the harvest has begun, the region’s fruit processing factories are not yet running. Archil Khandamashvili, Mayor of Gurjaani, said that 80-90% of Georgia’s peaches are exported, due in part to inadequate domestic processing facilities.

Khandamashvili is quoted as explaining that there are plans to open a major canning factory in Gurjaani, but it “has not been opened yet due to some technical problems, but it is said that the factory will be launched in the near future. Exporters buy peaches and sell it to Azerbaijan, Turkey and Russia.” Peach prices have held steady, ranging from GEL 0.50 – 0.78 per kilogram ($0.20 – 0.28).

In 2013, a fruit-processing and storage enterprise called Georgian Fruit Company Ltd. opened in the Gurjaani municipality, funded under the frame of the preferential agro-credit project. At least $1 million has been invested in the business. In 2016, the facility helped the harvest run smoothly.

In 2017, peach and nectarine growers in Kakheti suffered from too much of a good thing. Much of last year’s harvest spoiled or was distilled into peach chacha by locals unable to sell their fruit. The nectarine harvest was robust, and demand for the fruit is relatively low, driving down already low prices. Some farmers also reported that they generally count on Azerbaijani buyers, but some buyers came too late in the season, claiming hold ups at the border with customs agents. Speaking with OC Media, Gela Khanishvili, Deputy Agriculture Minister, blamed customs issues at the Russian border for the hang ups rather than the Azeri border.

One farmer quoted by OC Media, said he gave up farming due to last year’s failed harvest. “I am considering cutting the peach trees down and creating a vineyard. At least [grapes] don’t spoil so easily. I wasn’t able to earn even half of what I invested. This is a disaster,” said the man, identified only as Kemashvili. Mayor Khandamashvili says that, "Unlike last year's trend, this year we expect a much better harvest."

Shalva Kereselidze, Head of Regional Coordination at the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture, says that Kakheti has not yet demonstrated a need or demand for a fruit processing facility. In Gori, two-and-a-half hours away by car, there is the factory of Kula, a Georgian company that makes fruit juices and compotes. Some Kakhetian farmers sell their peaches to Gori and the Kula factory covers the transportation costs and logistics. In 2017, Kula bought 500 tons of peaches from Kakheti.

Since 2013, the government has been encouraging farmers to form cooperatives to sell their produce, but most are not interested in such a scheme.

The Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture of Georgia released a statement on this week saying they expect this year’s peach harvest in Kakheti to reach a total of 23,600 tons of peaches, collected along with an estimated 13,000 tons of nectarines. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Georgia has exported 1,608 tons of peaches so far this year, which is 1,537.58 tons (22-fold) more than in 2017.

In the first quarter of 2018, Georgia exported $37.8 million of agricultural goods – 22% more than the first quarter of 2017. According to a 2016 value chain analysis by PMCG and Iakob Gogebashvili Telavi State University, Kakheti produces 74% of Georgia’s peaches.

By Samantha Guthrie

05 July 2018 18:16