Blackberry wine to hit the market – The success story of a Georgian student’s enterprise
14 June, 2017
Georgia has been an agrarian country since ancient times that boasted its vast fertile lands, mild climate and 49 types of soils. Most importantly, Georgia is considered the birthplace of wine with around 8000 years of winemaking tradition under its belt. Yet during past decades the country faced serious hardships and economic stagnation that led to the collapse
of rural sector. Now the time of revival of Georgian agriculture sector has come as passionate and hardworking Georgian youth are one of the leading pioneers in this serious mission.

We saw many examples of successful young Georgian entrepreneurs who contribute to Georgian agriculture and economy through their commitment and work. Giorgi Latsabidze, the student of Biology and Agrarian Faculty at Telavi’s Agricultural University is yet another successful and ambitious entrepreneur who has already earned recognition for his gigantic aromatic blackberries (each weighing 15-20 grams) that sell out at great speed. As the young farmer and student says, this is only the beginning and soon he will produce blackberry wine and conquer foreign market with his produce. Currently the young farmer produces and sells not only his farm grown strawberries and blackberries, but their saplings as well. He charges one strawberry sapling for 50 tetris and blackberry sapling for 2 GEL.

“From the age of 19 I have been involved in agriculture sector. Originally it all started from strawberry saplings nursery and was followed by blackberry cultivation. Currently there is a huge demand for strawberry in Georgia. I started this business by myself and the idea came to me after I discovered a certain type of strawberry called San Andreas that is fruiting all year round. When I launched the business, I knew that it would attract the greenhouse workers and the demand would be huge. So I was one of the pioneers who produced and sold this sort of saplings. Whereas others sold one sapling for 6 GEL, I sold it at a relatively cheaper price 1 GEL. As a result, the strawberry sapling business turned out as a huge success. I would like to emphasize that the notion as if imported saplings are better and the ones that have been imported and multiplied here lose their specific features is not true. Moreover, the ones that are imported and sold out straight are frozen and their productivity index is low in comparison with locally cultivated saplings. In addition, the saplings I cultivate and produce are organic and pose no danger to health. This year besides saplings I will also sell my own strawberries that I have planted and grown. I remember when I received my first revenue 1800 GEL, I realized that my idea really worked and demand has gradually increased in different regions of Georgia”, - Giorgi Latsabidze said.
As Giorgi said, the idea to cultivate thornless sort of berries belongs to his mother. We could not find here the sweet sort of blackberries, so we had to import the saplings from the USA multiply . In fact, in Georgia we don’t have the culture of cultivating blackberries for commercial purposes. Gathering wild blackberries and selling is not an easy task. So the market was free for this product and I knew that it would definitely be in demand. As for the European market, there is a colossal demand on blackberries and prices vary from country to country. The leading provider of blackberries at the European market is Serbia, yet the output satisfies only 30 percent of demand while 70 percent remains unexploited. The demand is gradually expanding on blackberries both locally and internationally and Georgia’s key advantage is that we have a huge potential. In comparison with Serbia blackberries grow and ripen a month and a half earlier here. Moreover the sort I grow is called Triple Crown and it ripens earlier than a normal blackberry. As I have already said our superiority lies in the fact that blackberry ripens faster and earlier in Georgia. Subsequently Georgia produces blackberries when other countries such as Chile and Mexico who are the leading producers don’t, so this is our core advantage. So if we want to establish ourselves on the European market, then we have to produce far larger amounts of blackberries, at least 100 or 200 tons. I think that very soon we will supply not only European market but export blackberries to our neighboring countries such as Azerbaijan, Armenia and Turkey”, - Giorgi explained.
According to the young farmer, currently he is conducting negotiations with Dutch, Greeks, and Austrians who personally visited Georgia and expressed their willingness Georgian-produced blackberry to be exported to their market. Yet there are certain procedures that must be followed for safety and proper transportation. As Giorgi said, special shock fridges are needed to transfer the fruit so that it retains its taste and structure. Within 7 minutes the shock fridges freeze fruit under the - 41 degrees and when the product reaches its destination it is thawed and ready for sale.“We are a post-soviet country that has undergone many difficulties and hardships, so it is really hard to start everything again by yourself. People had no stimulus to produce products in large quantities because there was no market for realization and most of the produce would be spoiled. Fortunately, now things have changed and I am happy that today many youth think about buying and cultivating land and in this way playing their role in developing Georgia’s economy. I have planted strawberries on 6000 sq land and the blackberry on one hectare. This year I am expecting 10 tons of blackberries, as for the strawberries, the harvest will amount to 15 tons. In fact this is the first year I planted San Andreas strawberries and this sort of strawberry produces twice that amount second year. Even though this species are relatively large, they taste wonderful and are not filled with pesticides. Each strawberry weighs around 45-47 grams, whereas black berries amount to 15-20 grams and the level of sugar is 15 % that is quite much for the blackberry. This is the only sort of blackberry that contains this amount of sugar and that is why it is so sweet and delicious. I was planning to export blackberries in little quantities to foreign market, yet I don’t have special fridges that are needed for the transportation, so this year I will supply only Georgian market. There is a substantial demand from different regions of Georgia. Many restaurants buy it in large quantities and serve dishes garnished with blackberry sauce or use it for making juices. Besides locals, tourists like and buy fresh cold raspberries as well”, - Student entrepreneur explained.

On top of that the student from Georgia’s Kakheti region plans to make his own blackberry wine and produce it.

“This year I am planning to produce my own blackberry wine. It is very beneficial, good for heath and has healing features, so it is no less tasty than traditional wine. Blackberry is very nutritious, so in many European countries blackberry wine is surpassing ordinary wine. I think that this will be a new word in the history of Georgian modern wine production. It is noteworthy that in Georgia’s western Imereti region possess a unique tradition of making blackberry wine as well as blackberry sauce that is served with fried chicken, but no one has tried producing it for commercial purposes up to now. I am thinking about experimenting with different technologies and techniques to produce blackberry wine. I think that we have huge potential and developing the berry culture in Georgia will strengthen and revitalize our economy significantly”, - Giorgi Latsabidze remarked.
He thinks that special agency must be formed in the Ministry of Agriculture that will actively support and foster the development of this field. According to him, the agency must be aimed at attracting investors and funding specifically for this field, building processing plants, employing people, supplying entrepreneurs with special technologies and fridges as well as promoting this sector generally. “The government and people should listen to each other and work together for the wellbeing of whole country. I believe that if we follow this path then as a result we will build strong country with robust economy and better financially conditions”, - Giorgi said.

The successful entrepreneur envisions himself and his business in two years not only locally but occupying honorable place on foreign market as well.

Author: Lika Chigladze