On July 1, 2015, the Stakeholders’ Forum on the Tea Sector took place in Kutaisi. This was the first event in a series of dialogues about agriculture and rural development in Georgia organized by the ISET Policy Institute in partnership with CARE International in the Caucasus, the Regional Development Association, and the Georgian Farmers Association.
The main goal of the forum was to clearly visualize the challenges and opportunities faced by the various sector actors involved, including input suppliers, farmers, cooperatives, processors, market intermediaries, consumers, and exporters with the overall goals of improving productivity in the sector, connecting farmers with new business opportunities, exploring new export markets, and developing and managing Georgian tea brands.
The forum was attended by representatives of international and local agricultural organizations, the regional information and consulting centers of the Ministry of Agriculture, regional and municipal governments, the private sector, and the broader civil society.
Nino Zambakhidze (Georgian Farmers Association) and Juan-Jose Echanove (Delegation of the European Union in Georgia) opened the forum with discussions of the sector’s importance in Georgia. Adam Pellillo from ISET-PI presented some facts and figures about the sector and then introduced the goals and structure of the forum. According to the latest data from Geostat, tea leaf production in Georgia decreased from 6.6 thousand tons to 1.8 thousand tonnes during 2006-2014. In 2014, the total value of tea exports varied across tea type, from black tea ($1,377,000) to green tea ($952,000) and also for tea concentrates ($315,000). In contrast, the total value of tea imports was much larger, with about $8,008,000 being spent on imported black tea and about $565,000 being spent on green tea. There are a number of actors involved in the sector, from potentially thousands of household producers to 27 agricultural cooperatives, a handful of small- and medium-scale processors, and only four large-scale processors.
After invited forum speakers delivered their speeches and introduced various challenges the Georgian tea sector faces currently, the forum participants drafted general policy recommendations that can cope with the tea sector challenges discussed during the forum. Closing remarks were given by Silvia Sanjuan (CARE International in the Caucasus) and Gocha Tsopurashvili (Ministry of Agriculture).