On June 3 2016, a Round Table Discussion of Tea Cooperatives was held in Kutaisi. This was the third event in a series of dialogues about agriculture and rural development in Georgia organized by ISET Policy Institute (ISET-PI) in partnership with CARE International, the Regional Development Association and the Georgian Farmers Association, with support from the European Neighbourhood Programme for Agriculture and Rural Development (ENPARD).
This meeting, which was a continuation of the Tea Forum held in July 2015, aimed to facilitate discussion among a variety of stakeholders of the State Program of Tea Plantation Rehabilitation, called “Georgian Tea”.
The participants of the round table discussion were able to hear from a number of key stakeholders, including the Ministry of Agriculture, the Agricultural Projects Management Agency, the Agricultural Cooperatives Development Agency and the Georgian Farmers Association, along with representatives of the Regional Information and Consultation Centres of the Ministry of Agriculture, Tea Cooperatives, Tea Plantation Rehabilitation Implementer Companies, and tea production companies.
Nino Zambakhidze of the Georgian Farmers Association opened the forum with discussions about the programme’s importance for Georgia and the challenges faced by tea cooperatives. Silvia Sanjuan from CARE International underlined the importance of the ENPARD programme and the priorities of the CARE consortium and thanked the audience for their participation in the discussion. Deputy Minister of Agriculture Gocha Tsofurashvili highlighted the government’s willingness to rehabilitate tea plantations and the tea sector in Georgia; Giorgi Misheladze, the head of Agricultural Cooperatives Development Agency, then discussed features of already-registered tea cooperatives. The “Georgian Tea” programme manager at Agricultural Projects’ Management Agency, Levan Urotadze, then delivered a comprehensive presentation about the programme.
After opening the discussion session, the representatives of tea cooperatives and other tea sector stakeholders introduced various opportunities and challenges the program “Georgian Tea” faces currently. The discussion was moderated by Nino Zambakhdze (GFA) and Irakli Kochlamazashvili (ISET-PI), and the forum participants drafted general policy recommendations which will be considered as part of efforts to update the programme. In the closing remarks, Nino Zambakhidze (GFA) and Silvia Sanjuan (CARE International in the Caucasus) said that the CARE consortium will follow up the discussion results and assist the government in updating the programme. Gocha Tsopurashvili of the Ministry of Agriculture expressed their willingness to work on amendments to the programme.
The participants agreed on some amendments to be made in the Georgian Tea programme:
• The programme will consider co-financing the costs related to the fencing of tea plantations and the costs for Anaseuli laboratory analysis;
• The programme will review some restrictions set for cooperatives to benefit from the programme (at present, at least 75% of the cooperative members should contribute at least 0,25 hectares of their tea plantations; the maximum amount of leased tea plantation one single cooperative can take must be no more than the total size of the plantation that the cooperative owns);
• The programme will review the obligation for cooperatives to have a processing factory if they benefit from this programme.