Does Georgian meat have a future at the European market?
12 June, 2015
Does Georgian meat have a future at the European market?
On September 1 of 2014, Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA), the main part of the Georgia-EU Association Agreement, took effect. Today, we can say with confidence that EU member countries are far more familiar with Georgian products such as hazelnuts, kiwi and currants than they were nine months ago.

According to Geostat, in the first quarter of 2015, nuts took the third place in the list of top ten Georgia’s exported products, generating 52 million USD, which comprised 10
percent of total exports. In total, Georgia’s trade turnover in January-May of 2015 comprised 637 million USD, which is 0.4 percent more than the last year’s stat. Geostat also shows that export to EU countries comprised 30 percent of Georgia’s total export in January-April of 2015.
However, unlike wine, mineral water and other reputable Georgian exports, products classified as high-risk will take much longer to enter the EU market. This category includes, first and foremost, meat and dairy. According to specialists, the main obstacle for this is the stringent EU food safety standard, which Georgia does not live up to – at this stage, at least.
According to Lia Todua, manager of ( program by Center for Strategic Research and Development of Georgia, the European standard applies not just to the final product, but to the entire production process:
“In Europe, food safety begins with livestock health, which means regular vaccination and constant observation for contact with ill or unvaccinated animals. Besides, all livestock should be registered and undergo veterinary supervision. In addition, there are norms for slaughtering, processing of meat, hygiene and so on. It will take several years for our industry to match all these requirements.”
She also warns that while large producers are forced to adhere to norms small livestock businesses in Georgia operate essentially uncontrolled.
Another thing that, as specialists claim, impedes Georgia-produced meat from making it to the European market is lack of accredited laboratories that would conduct veterinary control on a level that would satisfy the EU standard. According to specialists, having a laboratory is a very costly affair, and many small-scale producers simply cannot afford it.
Nino Zambakhidze, Chair of the Georgian Farmers’ Association, considers the future of Georgian meat on the European market a very distant one. According to her, the situation is a bit better when it comes to cows, since there exist slaughterhouses in Georgia that satisfy the international standards. However, when it comes to smaller livestock or poultry, things don’t look too good – large companies run their own slaughterhouses, while farmers usually cannot afford such a luxury. Introducing stringent safety standards on processing livestock would cripple them completely.
“High-risk Georgian products will not appear at the European market before 2020. Besides, why would you want to export it when your country is 80 percent import-dependent? Products such as meat and dairy can only be exported only when your country is deemed trustworthy, which means absence of illnesses in livestock, and this is not the case here. We don’t even have quarantine zones at the border to prevent foreign livestock from wandering in,” says Nino Zambakhidze.
As she claims, another big problem in this entire endeavor is relative ignorance of farmers themselves. They are uninformed about EU standards and requirements and are poorly educated in general. Apparently, when farmers hear that their animals need to be registered or vaccinated, they assume that this is done only to collect more taxes from them. “An issue that we frequently encounter is being farmers hiding their livestock. When National Food Agency was conducting large-scale vaccination, farmers did not put their animals up for it, since they were taking advantage of having a socially vulnerable status and did not want to lose it,” explains Nino Zambakhidze, concluding that in general, Georgia is far from ready to export its high-risk products to Europe and will most likely remain so until 2020.
Her skepticism is shared by Juan Echanove, Food Safety and Rural Development Attaché of EU Delegation to Georgia. According to him, Georgia would be better off focusing on reducing its import dependency.
“Priority for Georgia should be to replace import. It is a shame that khachapuri is produced with imported wheat, it is a shame that your cheese is made from imported milk powder, and this is precisely what you need to think about. As for products such as meat and dairy, chances for Georgia to export them are slim due to lack of control in the field. Under the previous government, Georgia completely neglected food safety control and animal disease control. The country still suffers from this, and that’s why Europe will not be ready to open your doors to your animal-derived products in near future,” said Juan Echanove.

Author: Mari Javakhishvili
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