Carstensen on German-Georgian Relations & Georgia’s Growing Agriculture Potential


Peter Harry Carstensen is known as a political figure in Germany.  He was a Member of Parliament there from 1983 to 2005, and from 2005 to 2012 he was Minister-President of the State of Schleswig-Holstein, serving as President of the Bundesrat in 2005/06.

His experience is related to agriculture. He passed his Abitur in 1966 and worked in agriculture before beginning a course of study in agronomy in 1968, finishing in 1973 as a qualified engineer. He was employed as a teacher of agriculture at the Bredstedt Agricultural School and also as an economics advisor in the Agricultural Ministry of Schleswig-Holstein until 1983.

He is a very important person in Germany and great friend and advisor for Georgia. GEORGIA TODAY asked him to elaborate on his connection with the country.

Mr. Carstensen, you recently visited Georgia, and not for the first time. What was your mission in Tbilisi this time round?

I’m very proud when I see what we achieved. 5-6 years ago, we were talking about potato chips with local entrepreneurs. We were talking about Georgia, which has such fertile soil, and we were thinking about how people could develop strong agriculture – everything you see here is the result of our conversations.
We sowed about 50 hectares of potato; most of the produce of which goes to a potato chips factory now. Not only do we have agricultural products, but we also have production, which has additional value. We have almost 60 employees in high season. This includes the output of the product in Georgia and new jobs for Georgians. It makes me proud to see it working.

Your first visit to Georgia was 10 years ago, and now you’re a great friend of the country, sharing your experiance and knowledge. How would you rate the potential of agriculturehere and what is the biggest challenge for Georgia now?

I believe that the biggest challenge is knowledge and experience. If you have knowledge of agriculture and then build it up structurally, this can make the rural market more profitable. It was our goal to introduce more structure and education in this field. We have a Polish manager here with a lot of experience and a Georgian manager who has studied in Germany. When you want to sell a product, it’s obvious that the infrastructure should be good. Georgia has a lot to work on. We Germans are very interested in Georgia and believe in its capability to develop; we’ve seen people unite, one with a desire to build a potato factory, the second wanting to make potato chips- doing it with their own hands and work, asking for help when needed. This is a positive development for Georgia.

How important is the development of agriculture for economic stability?

Georgia is amazing exactly because of its fertile soil. The first time we came here, we saw people outside the market selling vegetables, watermelons, potatoes, all grown on this fertile land. Today, the main aim is to use this land optimally. What we did here is not only the result of good land, we also had capital, we had experience, advisors and even people we could work with: that’s exactly what we have to keep doing!

With the emergence of jobs in the country, Georgia will develop- this is clear. That’s what happens when you have such factories on the Georgian territory.

To what extent are young people interested in rural development in your county? How important are young professionals for the development of agriculture?

I was an agricultural advisor and spent some time teaching in an agricultural school: agriculture is in my heart and I want to pass my knowledge to others!

Are young people interested in agriculture? This is a very interesting question. Obviously, I cannot give you a clear answer. In Germany, when people come to us from the village, they are interested in the development of this culture. In Germany, there is another structure- the area is bigger than here, there is a lot of potential, but we don’t have many farmers. This potential should be used efficiently. I have to think how to create agriculture that will benefit. This is what I think is still not being done in Georgia, meaning we need to make people more enthusiastic. People should be proud they can produce food.

In your career, you’ve made a great contribution to the development of German agriculture. What are your future plans in Georgia?

I’m a pensioner now but I still have a lot of energy and strength, so I will gladly continue sharing my experience and knowledge. I believe that Georgia has a good future ahead. One of the most important things here is to develop within the boundaries. You should try to create the same product you see here in other regions of Georgia. I’ve done so much here, and if I could do the same in other regions, I would be very proud of it. There are many fields left to develop; we should feel it and look for it. That’s my mission.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Georgia in August. Germany has been a great supporter of Georgia. How would you assess the strategic relations between the two countries?

Angela Merkel was here, though the topic of "potato breeding" was not on her agenda. The kind of development we’re looking for in Georgia is not necessarily related to finances or politics, but more to transmit knowledge. We have an employee who studied agriculture at a German university. I think that's exactly what we need - the exchange of knowledge. And if I can do something towards it, even collaborating with universities to help Georgia, I'm delighted to do so. I have contacts and will use them with pleasure.

I think Georgia has one of the biggest potentials in the ex-Soviet space. In Georgia, there was fruit and vegetable production and export. Georgia is a country where wine was created, Georgia has the greatest potential to profit from agriculture. What I love in Georgia is that in the 4th century, I think in 353, it became a Christian nation in a political region where sometimes everything looks different. Maybe this is the moment that made Georgia so profitable. And when a man travels around Georgia, he assures you how good the lands are here: mountains, sea, lakes, the most fertile soils with abundant water sources… we can do many things in agriculture and I’m always happy to help move things forward in this regard.


By Katie Ruth Davies

Photo: Peter Harry Carstensen. Photo by Frank Osssenbrink

11 September 2018 09:32