EU financing Georgian entrepreneurship
17 November, 2016
63 000 GEL was received by the Georgian Agro Export Group which is just a small part of the European Neighbourhood Programme for Agricultural and Rural development. The total budget is 265 million GEL (NEED $ conversion) for the period of 2013-2019.

One of the projects which was funded through this programme is a small strawberries growing cooperative in the village of Bulachauri.

“We got our first harvest this February - about 1 tone of strawberries. The whole amount of
strawberry was sold in Tbilisi. In general, strawberry is very profitable product during certain periods of the year. The price was 10-12 GEL ($4-5) for a kilogram when we sold it. However, during autumn or winter its price reaches 18-25 GEL ($8-10),” – said David Narimanashvili, Director of the cooperative.

The members of the cooperative previously worked in the agricultural business.

“We took part in the ENPARD program in 2015. ENPARD’s partner organisation Oxfam has financed our business project. We created a cooperative, which received the grant of 63 000 GEL. We invested 23 000 GEL as our contribiution. Besides, we had to spend about 20 000 GEL during this year. Before starting operating as a coopative, each of us has been working as ivdividual enterprenuers. So we invested more and got less income. The scale of our business has changed significantly after our union,” – Narimanashvili explains.

At this moment the cooperative is waiting for the second harvest. But ripening process has become slower as the weather is getting colder. The cooperative tried out several types of heating system on the 500 square meter territory of the greenhouse. However, they found this process to be quite expensive and not very efficient. Business started successfully with the EU financing but needs more support now in order to develop and grow successfully.

“The weather turned out to be quite harsh. We have bought a heater but we faced problems of gas pressure and power capacity. On the other hand, energy resources are quite expensive, especially for entrepreneurs in Georgia. If the state subsidises energy resources, we will come up with more competitive products in the market,” - the Director adds.

The cooperative plans to improve the greenhouse and develop their business. Today, there are 10 000 plants of San Andreas strawberry growing in the greenhouse. The total annual harvest should reach 3 tons. The entrepreneurs plan to increase the number to 18 000 plants. If they get financial support for heating, it will allow them to increase their productivity. In the future, the cooperative plans to expand and build another greenhouse.

Georgian Agro Export Group is not the only company financed by ENPARD. ENPARD has been active in Georgia since 2013. Their main purpose is to develop Georgian agriculture through supporting small private businesses.

Under this program, the Strategy of Agricultural Development has been set up in Georgia for 2015-2020 period and over 400 staff members of Ministry of Agriculture have been trained. 59 consultation and information centres were established across Georgia, with more than 1600 agricultural cooperatives and over 14 000 farmers registered in agricultural cooperatives database.

The total budget for ENPARD in Georgia for 2013-2019 is €102 million.

Author: Nana Mghebrishvili