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Georgia Doubled the Area of Cultivated Agricultural Land in 2013

According to available data from the ministry of agriculture (MoA), by 1 May, 2013, 400,000 hectares have been cultivated this year in Georgia, which means a 100% increase compared to last year and the highest figure, by far, since 2005. In fact, this is the highest yearly increase in cultivated area Georgia recorded during the last decades.

In total, Georgia has around  800,000 hectares of agricultural land (i.e. land suitable for cultivation).

Table: Georgian agricultural land in cultivation (hectares), 1990-2013

 

b2ap3_thumbnail_DataPicture.png

Source: MoA

 

No data by regions is currently available. In principle, one could expect an even increase across the country, given that the main driver of this is the MoA plowing + vouchers programme, which targets all districts in Georgia. In fact, there are certain factors that will create differences across regions. To name just a few:

  • In the poorest regions (with the highest levels of non cultivated lands) the increase will certainly be higher (e.g. Kakheti) compared to areas where the proportion of cultivated lands in total agricultural lands was already higher than average.
  • In areas with a high proportion of perennial crops (e.g. Gori district and its orchards) the proportion will be lower because, of course, it is the non-perennial crops that are being expanded.
  • The very low populated areas (e.g. Racha) the increases will be small, because there is simply no manpower to cope with additional cultivated lands, regardless of the government’s efforts.

BACKGROUND

By the 80's Georgia reached is historical maximum of 700,000 cultivated hectares. Then, the period 1990 to 1995 saw a total collapse of the sector, due to the conflict situation that the country was living through at the time and the effects of the collapse of the Soviet Union. 250,000 hectares of  land, which have been traditionally cultivated, were abandoned.

In the period 1995 to 2004 the sector started a very slow but sustained recovery, and sown area augmented by 150,000 hectares.

The period 2004 to 2012 saw a second collapse of agriculture. This time it was not caused by wars or economic crises but by a deliberate policy to neglected the primary production. The country lost almost 400,000 hectares of cultivated lands , i.e. 2/3 of the total area cultivated before that period.

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Guest - Nino Olgesashvili on Wednesday, 22 May 2013 19:01

Now, does cultivated also mean planted and growing or does that only refer to plowing? because according to few farmers I've talked to, lot of land that has been plowed by the government has stayed idle and nothing has been planted on those lands. The follow up on cultivated land would be interesting indicator to look at. I personally am very skeptical for effectiveness of these kind of programs, but i guess we should wait to see the harvest of the "highest yearly increase in cultivated area Georgia recorded during the last decades"

Now, does cultivated also mean planted and growing or does that only refer to plowing? because according to few farmers I've talked to, lot of land that has been plowed by the government has stayed idle and nothing has been planted on those lands. The follow up on cultivated land would be interesting indicator to look at. I personally am very skeptical for effectiveness of these kind of programs, but i guess we should wait to see the harvest of the "highest yearly increase in cultivated area Georgia recorded during the last decades"
Guest - Juan Echanove on Wednesday, 22 May 2013 19:47

Hi Nino.

According to my English dictionary 'to cultivate' means 'to improve and prepare (land), as by plowing or fertilizing, for raising crops'. Thus, I don’t think anyone is saying that planted land ha doubled. What the data is referring to is about cultivating, in its strict sense.

Actually, I don’t even thing that those that designed this programme were so naïf to think that all the new cultivated lands would be planted afterwards. We are talking about aggregated results. There is always a margin of looses that you have to leave with . As we usually say in Spanish, 'constant seeking for perfection is the best way not do anything at all'. How big such margin of error is acceptable is a different story, but again, we can only discuss once we will have appropriate data on which percentage of cultivated lands have not been planted.

One thing is sure: if you don’t increase the cultivated land, you cannot increase the planted land. :-)

The fact (if statistics are reliable here) is simply that the area cultivated has doubled. How much that would mean in terms of increase of planted lands we don’t know yet, but I don’t think that some discussions with some farmers here and there have a real statistical significance. I also know other farmers that have planted lands that they were not planting before. So, as you say, we will have to wait and see consolidate results.

Anyways, and following your same logic, I would not agree with your statement that increase in cultivated lands should be an 'interesting indicator'. We all know that lots of cultivated lands will not produce at all or will produce very little, due to poor management, weather conditions and so on. Furthermore, even an increase in production would not be the ultimate 'interesting indicator', because, as we all know, more production does not automatically mean increase in income, which also depends on post harvest management, access to market, prices and so on an so for.

What I believe is that last thing Georgia agriculture needs is scepticism. The sector already had too much of such scepticism during the last 20 years. Things are to start form some where if the want the sector to really move on.

Hi Nino. According to my English dictionary 'to cultivate' means 'to improve and prepare (land), as by plowing or fertilizing, for raising crops'. Thus, I don’t think anyone is saying that planted land ha doubled. What the data is referring to is about cultivating, in its strict sense. Actually, I don’t even thing that those that designed this programme were so naïf to think that all the new cultivated lands would be planted afterwards. We are talking about aggregated results. There is always a margin of looses that you have to leave with . As we usually say in Spanish, 'constant seeking for perfection is the best way not do anything at all'. How big such margin of error is acceptable is a different story, but again, we can only discuss once we will have appropriate data on which percentage of cultivated lands have not been planted. One thing is sure: if you don’t increase the cultivated land, you cannot increase the planted land. :-) The fact (if statistics are reliable here) is simply that the area cultivated has doubled. How much that would mean in terms of increase of planted lands we don’t know yet, but I don’t think that some discussions with some farmers here and there have a real statistical significance. I also know other farmers that have planted lands that they were not planting before. So, as you say, we will have to wait and see consolidate results. Anyways, and following your same logic, I would not agree with your statement that increase in cultivated lands should be an 'interesting indicator'. We all know that lots of cultivated lands will not produce at all or will produce very little, due to poor management, weather conditions and so on. Furthermore, even an increase in production would not be the ultimate 'interesting indicator', because, as we all know, more production does not automatically mean increase in income, which also depends on post harvest management, access to market, prices and so on an so for. What I believe is that last thing Georgia agriculture needs is scepticism. The sector already had too much of such scepticism during the last 20 years. Things are to start form some where if the want the sector to really move on.
Guest - Eric Livny on Wednesday, 22 May 2013 20:54

There is a similar saying in Russian: the "best" is the enemy of the "good".

It would be important to know ahead of time how much area has been actually planted and with what kind of crops. This might help reduce post-harvest losses and prevent prices from collapsing.

There is a similar saying in Russian: the "best" is the enemy of the "good". It would be important to know ahead of time how much area has been actually planted and with what kind of crops. This might help reduce post-harvest losses and prevent prices from collapsing.
Guest - Simon Appleby on Wednesday, 22 May 2013 22:01

According to FAO, Georgia has 3.06 million Ha of agricultural land, of which 802,000 Ha is arable land.

Worldwide, the area planted to cereal crops from October 2012 to now is 7% higher than the same period the previous year. Farmers have observed the high cereal prices resulting from poor harvests in North America and Russia last year, and in the hope the trend will continue have expanded cereal crop sowing. They may or may not be disappointed with the prices received. Government vouchers in Georgia alone are not responsible for this increase in Georgia; Georgia had a much larger proportion of fallow land to bring into production in response to price signals (75%) so it is natural the percentage increase will be substantial

The suggestion that "One thing is sure: if you don’t increase the cultivated land, you cannot increase the planted land." is a quarter-century out of date. Zero-till farming of cereals, pulses, fodder crops, pastures and even some vegetable crops, where seed is sown directly into the stubble of the previous year's crop without cultivation, has been proven technology for many decades and farmers in Georgia have already begun using this methodology.

According to FAO, Georgia has 3.06 million Ha of agricultural land, of which 802,000 Ha is arable land. Worldwide, the area planted to cereal crops from October 2012 to now is 7% higher than the same period the previous year. Farmers have observed the high cereal prices resulting from poor harvests in North America and Russia last year, and in the hope the trend will continue have expanded cereal crop sowing. They may or may not be disappointed with the prices received. Government vouchers in Georgia alone are not responsible for this increase in Georgia; Georgia had a much larger proportion of fallow land to bring into production in response to price signals (75%) so it is natural the percentage increase will be substantial The suggestion that "One thing is sure: if you don’t increase the cultivated land, you cannot increase the planted land." is a quarter-century out of date. Zero-till farming of cereals, pulses, fodder crops, pastures and even some vegetable crops, where seed is sown directly into the stubble of the previous year's crop without cultivation, has been proven technology for many decades and farmers in Georgia have already begun using this methodology.
Guest - Juan Echanove on Thursday, 23 May 2013 11:30

Hi Simon.

I do in principle agree with both your opinions. Yes, price expectations are probably another important contributing factor on the increase in cultivated land, together with the ploughing programme and vouchers , and certainly a better aces to credit (not only of mainly due to the state funded programme on lending, but also the REBRD and those by others), and a few other current factors too.

As for the issue of planting without cultivation, you are of course 100% technically correct. This is a proven method increasingly used by farmers' world wide…and not just during the last 25 years but at list since mid 60's of the last century. But I was not referring to theoretical options but trying to put this issue in the context of the current Georgian reality.
Given the relatable low percentage of Georgian farmers ready now to use such method, in aggregate numbers it is still valid that, in the case of the reality of the sector in Georgia right now, a substantial increase the cultivated land is needed if you are looking for a substantial increase in the cultivated land this year. I guess you would agree with that.

Hi Simon. I do in principle agree with both your opinions. Yes, price expectations are probably another important contributing factor on the increase in cultivated land, together with the ploughing programme and vouchers , and certainly a better aces to credit (not only of mainly due to the state funded programme on lending, but also the REBRD and those by others), and a few other current factors too. As for the issue of planting without cultivation, you are of course 100% technically correct. This is a proven method increasingly used by farmers' world wide…and not just during the last 25 years but at list since mid 60's of the last century. But I was not referring to theoretical options but trying to put this issue in the context of the current Georgian reality. Given the relatable low percentage of Georgian farmers ready now to use such method, in aggregate numbers it is still valid that, in the case of the reality of the sector in Georgia right now, a substantial increase the cultivated land is needed if you are looking for a substantial increase in the cultivated land this year. I guess you would agree with that.
Guest - Juan Echanove on Thursday, 23 May 2013 11:47

Simon,

I guess you missed to notice in my blog post that when I wrote 800,000 hectares I was explicitly referring only to agricultural land 'suitable for cultivation', as I indicated.
Of course, in FAO definition agricultural land is land including arable land, land under permanent crops and land under permanent meadows and pastures, an all that together is the 2.6 million according to FAO, that we all know. But the post was not at all about pastures, meadows and permanent crops. 
Juan

Simon, I guess you missed to notice in my blog post that when I wrote 800,000 hectares I was explicitly referring only to agricultural land 'suitable for cultivation', as I indicated. Of course, in FAO definition agricultural land is land including arable land, land under permanent crops and land under permanent meadows and pastures, an all that together is the 2.6 million according to FAO, that we all know. But the post was not at all about pastures, meadows and permanent crops.  Juan
Guest - Frank on Monday, 27 May 2013 16:15

Juan,

I was going to ask for some clarification about predicted regional increases. For example, the claim that the poorest regions will “certainly” show greater increases is a big leap considering the myriad of possible reasons for low cultivation rates. However, after reading the comments, I’d rather say the following:

More tilling most likely means more planting, but doesn't it matter how much more? If you don’t think an increase in production would be “an interesting indicator,” what exactly was this project for? What aggregate results are you looking for?

Where I think the other commenters and I agree is this: the one thing that will NOT be helpful to agriculture development is a lack of skepticism.

It's very easy for those that participate in development fields to be hopeful, which often leads to data blindness. We're talking about a very large amount of resources spent on the shaky assumption that farmers aren't planting solely because of a lack of tilling. What if 50% of the newly tilled land was not planted? Wouldn't those resources have been better spent on business training for those who did plant? Or perhaps some other capital or information deficiency? These questions are not pessimistic nitpicking, rather necessary critique.

If development projects are to make any real progress, we must honestly ask ourselves where their major failings might be. If we base our attitudes only on stats that suggest our success, we risk spending millions and millions of dollars on small steps that could be used elsewhere to make huge ones.

In short, for the sector to show real improvement we must be clever and prudent, not bold and self-assured.

Frank

Juan, I was going to ask for some clarification about predicted regional increases. For example, the claim that the poorest regions will “certainly” show greater increases is a big leap considering the myriad of possible reasons for low cultivation rates. However, after reading the comments, I’d rather say the following: More tilling most likely means more planting, but doesn't it matter how much more? If you don’t think an increase in production would be “an interesting indicator,” what exactly was this project for? What aggregate results are you looking for? Where I think the other commenters and I agree is this: the one thing that will NOT be helpful to agriculture development is a lack of skepticism. It's very easy for those that participate in development fields to be hopeful, which often leads to data blindness. We're talking about a very large amount of resources spent on the shaky assumption that farmers aren't planting solely because of a lack of tilling. What if 50% of the newly tilled land was not planted? Wouldn't those resources have been better spent on business training for those who did plant? Or perhaps some other capital or information deficiency? These questions are not pessimistic nitpicking, rather necessary critique. If development projects are to make any real progress, we must honestly ask ourselves where their major failings might be. If we base our attitudes only on stats that suggest our success, we risk spending millions and millions of dollars on small steps that could be used elsewhere to make huge ones. In short, for the sector to show real improvement we must be clever and prudent, not bold and self-assured. Frank
Guest - Juan Echanove on Monday, 27 May 2013 16:39

Hi Frank

I thought it was obvious that when I said that neither an increase in
production would be an interesting indicator it was an irony , I was just trying to play the role of the over sceptical that many fellows like to play in Georgia (what if production increases but prices go down tot he point that farmers earn much less producing more?)
Well: I was ironic,;. 

I found your comment very sensible and I am quite sympathetic with what you re saying. But your comment is also very obvious. Yes, you are of course right: Yes: blind enthusiasm is not what the sector needs. We all agree on that, I guess.

But neither this over criticism that is really annoying sometimes here in Georgia (of the kind of ' what ever you do, it will fail,'). This is the mood I was attacking, not sensible criticism.

It is really interesting, that not a single comment said 'this is increase is fine, is good, but lest see if this will work'.

Sometimes I think some people here just want everything to fail so them they can say them to say "I told you, it was not doing to work, you see, I was right'.

I am feed-up with such attitude, that's all.

We need to be professionals. But enthusiastic professionals, and I don’t see a hint of contradiction on that.


Juan

Hi Frank I thought it was obvious that when I said that neither an increase in production would be an interesting indicator it was an irony , I was just trying to play the role of the over sceptical that many fellows like to play in Georgia (what if production increases but prices go down tot he point that farmers earn much less producing more?) Well: I was ironic,;.  I found your comment very sensible and I am quite sympathetic with what you re saying. But your comment is also very obvious. Yes, you are of course right: Yes: blind enthusiasm is not what the sector needs. We all agree on that, I guess. But neither this over criticism that is really annoying sometimes here in Georgia (of the kind of ' what ever you do, it will fail,'). This is the mood I was attacking, not sensible criticism. It is really interesting, that not a single comment said 'this is increase is fine, is good, but lest see if this will work'. Sometimes I think some people here just want everything to fail so them they can say them to say "I told you, it was not doing to work, you see, I was right'. I am feed-up with such attitude, that's all. We need to be professionals. But enthusiastic professionals, and I don’t see a hint of contradiction on that. Juan
Guest - Nino Olgesashvili on Tuesday, 28 May 2013 12:42

By saying i am skeptical for those kinds of programs, i only referred to the government intervention programs affecting production to be effective be it in Georgia or Sudan it does not matter. i think we are having economic discussions here not political. i agree lots of Georgians are waiting for governments to fail so that they can blame someone for their misfortune, but that is not what i wanted to express. As usual, any kind of intervention programs, except infrastructural development programs, create false incentives and those incentives fail in long-run.

By saying i am skeptical for those kinds of programs, i only referred to the government intervention programs affecting production to be effective be it in Georgia or Sudan it does not matter. i think we are having economic discussions here not political. i agree lots of Georgians are waiting for governments to fail so that they can blame someone for their misfortune, but that is not what i wanted to express. As usual, any kind of intervention programs, except infrastructural development programs, create false incentives and those incentives fail in long-run.
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