TBILISI/SEPT. 14 (The Bulletin) — Off the back of what looks set to be another bumper harvest, Georgian PM Irakli Garibashvili told his agriculture ministry to overtake Italy and Azerbaijan as the world’s second biggest producer of hazelnuts.
This year’s harvest of hazelnuts in Georgia, an important export commodity, is likely to be 27% higher than last year. In the first six weeks of the harvest, which starts on Aug. 1, Georgian officials said that they had exported 5,500 tonnes of hazelnuts, worth $24m.
The global demand for hazelnuts has boomed, driven by demand for chocolate, and both Azerbaijan and Georgia have pushed farmers to grow more.
Georgia is ranked fifth in the world for hazelnut production, although Mr Garibashvili said that he wanted to increase exports.
“Our task should be, step by step, to take second place in a few years. We have an ambitious plan to make Georgia the second largest hazelnut producer in the world,” he said.
This year, Georgia aims to grow 65,000 to 75,000 tonnes of hazelnuts. Analysts said that 1.1m tonnes of hazelnuts are grown annually, with Turkey dominating the market with a 69% share. Italy produces nearly 9% of the world’s hazelnut supply and Azerbaijan about 5%, roughly double Georgia’s contribution.
Hazelnuts are one of Georgia’s most important agricultural products, supporting an estimated 50,000 jobs directly.
Over the last few years, though, production has been blighted by bugs, which have eaten the crop, and poor quality harvests.
>> This story was first published in issue 500 of The Bulletin