European market needs indefinite amount of Georgian blackberries
08 March, 2016
Since 1978, Izoldi Kitesashvili worked as a doctor-neurologist. Recently, she abandoned her position of the head of neurology department and decided to dedicate most of her time and energy to fruit-growing business. In the region of Kakheti, in eastern Georgia, she has a garden where various fruits grow and recently she added several bushes of blackberries. This gave her family additional profit and now Izoldi has a possibility to widen her business. What is the perspective of these berries and
is there any demand for them in European markets? Ms. Izoldi Kitesashvili shares her thoughts with us.

- It’s been more than twenty years since my family is involved in fruit-growing business. We have apricots, peaches, plums, grapes… and recently we added blackberries. Since 2008 I have been a member of extension center (UN programme) that was opened in the village of Kachreti and that is where they gave us blackberry saplings. At first we only planted 30 saplings and after two years, the harvest was already too much for domestic consumption, so we decided to try to sell them at the Gurjaani market. The demand exceeded all our expectations. Because of that we widened our production and this year we expect approximately 20 tons of blackberries. In total, we have 37 acres of land.

- Have you been hiring workers for that?

- Yes. We hire about 20-30 people per season.

- Do you have fruit processing factory too?

- Over the years we were convinced that this kind of factory is very important. In the beginning, after harvesting, we had to throw out tons of fruits that were not good for selling. You can’t leave them in the garden, because it causes the spreading of various diseases. So we decided to buy a drying room. After selling high-quality fruits, a solid amount of peaches, plums and other fruits are left. We can sell them too for low prices but it will be much better if we dry them. In 2014, we received a fellowship of 47 000 dollars from USAID and with this money we are building a new drying room that will be ready this July.

- Do any locals produce blackberries too?

- Only for domestic purposes. Apart from local market, the blackberries are also in demand in Europe, but the problem is they want huge amounts. When they contacted me, it turned out they wanted about 5 tons of blackberries every other day. Unfortunately we do not have this amount. That is why we want others to cultivate blackberries too.

- Does it take a lot of money to cultivate blackberries?

- The same amount of money the vineyard needs. However, it is easier to look after blackberries than vineyards.

- What about making juices or jams?

- It needs different technology and a considerable amount of money. We cannot do that at this point. However, we plan to do it in the future. We’ll try, at least. Blackberry juice has an incomparable taste and blackberry jam is very delicious too. Once some foreigners visited me and I gave them ice cream with blackberry jam. The very next day they contacted me and asked if I had more of that delicious jam. I found one jar in the basement and they sent it to England. Generally, blackberries don’t need chemicals and that is why they could not find anything wrong in it. They offered me to produce jams and sell them abroad. But I only prepare jams for domestic purposes at this point.

- Do you cultivate vegetables too?

- We plan to set up a greenhouse with 5 000 Laris we received from the Minisrty of Economics. We already began to build it.

- In what countries do you sell your products?

- In 2014, 60% of our production was sold in Armenia. Last year we added some shops. During the last two years there have been no problems in selling fruits.

- What advice would you give to beginners? Is it profitable to cultivate blackberries?

- As I have already said, I am very interested in others cultivating blackberries. I would help them in many ways.

By Shorena Labadze

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