Christmas-Tree-Cone Price War
26 September, 2013
Christmas-Tree-Cone Price War
Caucasian Pine largely known as Nordmann fir is the most popular Christmas tree in Europe. One Christmas tree is sold for at least EUR 30 at European market while licensees producing seeds of this fir tree in Georgia grudge GEL 2 to pay per kilo of cones to cone gatherers, who climb as high as 60 meters to get cones that produce seeds. Pricing, gathering and export of the cone-seeds look pretty strange in Georgia thanks to liberalized licensing policy
introduced by Georgian authorities in 2009.
Pricing, gathering and export of the cone-seeds, which pamper European consumers by luxurious Christmas tree specimen look pretty ambiguous in Georgia thanks to liberalized licensing policy and loose state control, introduced since 2009 by Georgian authorities. It raises environmental risks to precious pine forests and infringes rights of population, who gather cones under difficult condition but appear underpaid due to rampant poaching and loopholes in the licensing law, which doesn’t set strict terms for license holders in dealing with the labor force. Cone gathering is a pretty risky business as the relevant cones must be picked at the top of pines trees that grow up to 60 meters in height [some reach 78-85 meters], the work that requires dexterous climbing skills and should be paid decently as any risky job. However, only three out of 15 licensees operating in Georgia agreed to pay GEL 2 per kilo to the gatherers this year and only after pressure of non-governmental watchdog Nana Sokhadze, a regional coordinator of Open Environmental Civic Initiative (OECI) in Racha, the major region where the questioned pine trees grow, said in the interview to Georgian Journal. According to her, the price does not change in fact inasmuch as markets for the cone are secured for many years. Besides, thanks to liberal licensing reforms enacted since 2009 in Georgia licensees pay tolls not per licensed quantities that stand as 650 tons totally but for the amounts they actually produce and that lags much behind the licensed figure as the market does not increase. However this year licensees dropped the price to GEL1 in Racha and even to 0.50 in Borjomi, two key regions where the popular Christmas tree grows.
As a matter of fact, Nordmann Fir called after the Finnish zoologist Alexander von Nordmann (1803-1866), Professor of Botany at Odessa, is a fir tree, indigenous to the mountains west and east of the Black Sea, in Turkey, Georgia, Russian Caucasus and northern parts of Armenia; however, European fir tree producers are interested in the specimens growing in a small village Tlughi in Racha, mainly due to its special qualities: it has exquisite color and foliage, grows faster than any other specimen, and does not fall readily when the tree withers. They also procure minor quantities in a small territory adjacent to Nedzvi reserve in Borjomi; however, the Tlughi one is most favored. According to Rezo Getiashvili, Media Consultant at Caucasus Environmental NGO Network, Christmas fir trees grown on Georgian pine cones are cultivated in Germany and Denmark, key suppliers in Europe. The business grew into national one in Denmark that sells millions of Christmas trees each year with huge profits. However, license holders both locals and foreigners, appear reluctant to pay decent price to cone gatherers in Georgia. Getiashvili presumes that to slash prices they enter in murky deals with some poachers who sneak into the forests without permission and literally devastate the forests: they cut tops of fir trees and crush them relentlessly, which leads to devastation of precious specimens.
“As a matter of fact, it is a crime,” Getiashvili said, “Particularly in Nedzvi that is Reserve Park and to pick cones there requires special permission.” However, poachers remain unpunished for the license reforms of 2009, revoked the Forest Institute that regulated forest management; inspection of forests is carried out only if complaint with the Ministry of Environment Protection or tax administration. According to Sokhadze, to solve the problem, a package of legislative changes is should be approved for forest control, taxation and licensing.

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