Low-cost Technologies for Georgian Mandarin Farming
19 April, 2012

Georgian mandarin yeilds can triple if Georgian farmers undertake the up-to-date technologies based on Californian experience provided in frames of the USAID-supported Economic Prosperity Initiative.    

 

Satsuma is the sort of mandarin that grows in Georgia at 200 meters height from the sea level in Guria, Ajara and Samegrelo regions in the west part of the country adjoining the Black Sea. There are about 25 thousand Satsuma orchards in Georgia, the bigger part of which encompasses less than 0.5 hectares

(ha) with about 30-35 years-old trees supposed to be the most productive by international practice but due to the lack of modern cultivating methods, the yield and fruit quality are very low, - Cindy Fake, an expert with the Economic Prosperity Initiative (EPI) from the Service of Implanting Scientific Researches in Corporation at California University, said on April 12, 2012 at the seminar held for Georgian media by EPI.

According to Fake, Georgian mandarin farmers have not updated their technologies for about 20 years that affects the orchard producing capacity as well as fruit quality -its size is much smaller than those produced in California-grown Satsuma orchards and the return of Georgian mandarin is only one-tenth of Satsuma growers from California: about 50 tetri per kilo while Californian similar small scale farmers’ farm-gate price is fixed at about USD 2.70 per kilo and the wholesale price is much higher.

“The orchards are 30-35 years old and they should be very, very productive and should be producing very high quality fruit, because the older the tree is, typically the higher quality fruit it produce and the size gets bigger. So the Satsuma are good for this climate [for Satsuma grows in cooler regions] but farmers have not had update information on citrus farming for years that affects the yields and fruit quality,” Fake said.  EPI goal is to increase the yield and improve the quality so as to improve the value of the fruit and increase return to the farmer and also increase the fruit’s export value and enhance domestic market share. Georgian mandarin farmers are price-takers mainly the prices are set by Azerbaijani and Ukrainian markets where mandarin is exported and it is low as the quality is low. 720 farmers are supposed to be trained in frames of the 3-year EPI program. The group of trainers consists of members of Shota Rustaveli Agriculture Faculty and Agriculture University as well as other Georgian agriculture professionals who will be also trained by EPI experts so as they could train Georgian farmers ultimately. Farmers will be trained in four key technologies including pruning, orchard soil cultivation management, anti-pesticide management, and the harvest management so as to choose the most optimal time for fruit gathering.

Fake assures that the new technologies are very low-cost and do not demand any big investments just proper techniques of pruning, soil cultivation and like that.  Georgian farmers make two key mistakes that need to be streamlined: pruning and cultivating soil under trees.

“They did not really understand the pruning citrus so the canopy or leaves of the tree in most cases have very narrow space for fruit to be produced. When I showed picture of trees of same age in my farmers in California they said: oh, that cannot be, because the canopy is three times as big for the same age of trees.  Another issue is that they have been cultivating, digging soils under trees right from the tree trunk for many years, that practice  we had in California for 25-30 years ago,  we learned that it was bad for citrus and interrupted it, now we preserve the root area around the trees we do not cultivate it all. Pruning and digging the soil were the major issues why your quality is low,” Fake elaborated adding that Georgian farmers can easily triple the yield if adopt new technologies: when the number as well as the size of fruits increase the market price will also go higher.

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