Heavy Hail Destroys Grape Harvest in Kakheti

Heavy hail and rain which hit Georgia’s Kakheti region, especially Akhmeta and Telavi municipalities, has destroyed the watermelon and grape harvest, flooded houses and streets and damaged infrastructure.

According to the Center for Active Impact on Natural Events, they fired 200 weather rockets and cloud masses were significantly reduced, but it did not help to save the harvest.

The 20-minute hail most of all affected three villages in Akhmeta: Kistauri, Akhshani and Matani and three villages in Telavi: Shalauri, Kasiskhevi and Nasamkhrali, destroying the entire harvest there.

After the hail, an Emergency Headquarters was set up in Kakheti to coordinate disaster liquidation works and calculate the damage inflicted.

The meeting at the Emergency Headquarters was attended by the Minister of Environment and Agriculture, Levan Davitashvili, and the representatives of the local governments.

The Minister said the headquarters continues to work on a special regime and provides communication between the farmers and the enterprises.

Davitashvili also met the locals and called on them to always insure their harvest. He said the State can give compensation only to those farmers who had their gardens ad vineyards insured.

The Minister noted that negotiations are underway with enterprises which have agreed to buy damaged grapes from the farmers to make alcohol.

“Locals affected by hail in villages in Akhmeta municipality will be able to sell their grapes to enterprises in Akhmeta…The population can take the damaged grapes there right now,” he said.

However, the farmers said the offer is unacceptable, adding they have no grapes to sell, as the hail destroyed nearly everything.

The locals of the affected villages held a protest rally asking for compensation, free chemicals and pesticides and mediation with the banks where they have loans.

Farmer Robert Khomizuri says 90% of his harvest is destroyed. He says the offer of the State to sell the damaged grapes will not work for him, as there is no harvest left in his vineyard.

“If they cannot give us compensation, they can at least give us pesticides which we need four times a year,” the farmer added.

The locals say that anti-hail systems do not work, and instead the money should be spent on farmers.

“We will not stop. We demand the State looks after us and helps us. We are without hope, all our harvest is destroyed and we now face starvation,” local Giorgi Gabanashvili said.

By Thea Morrison

20 August 2018 15:57