On 21st June, Dr George Welton provided an introductory analysis of the situation facing agriculture in Georgia at a conference organised by CARE International entitled, 'Opportunities in Rural Development for Small Farmers'.
The presentation was based on several different research projects conducted by GeoWel Research, in particular, projects conducted for Mercy Corps, Care International and most recently, an on-going project being conducted for UNDP comparing different strategies for agricultural development in Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan.
The presentation looks at the different reasons why agriculture is considered important in Georgia, in terms of employment, growth, security and poverty reduction. It also looks at Georgia's untapped potential.
Georgia has over twice as much rainfall as Azerbaijan and almost four times as much as Armenia. However, it still has incredibly low productivity, as can be seen when one compares productivity levels provided by FAO.
Productivity per hectare (in Kg, 2010)
Owing to this underproductivity, Georgia has huge potential for productivity increases and, at the current time there seem to be enormous opportunities in agriculture. In meat and dairy the opportunities are clearest in commercial swine production, beef production for live animal export, and potentially late-season milk production. In crops, the biggest opportunities seem to lie in fruit and vegetables, particularly with greenhouses and improved storage.
The comparative research also seems to suggest that these opportunities can be best acheived if one works on the infrastructure challenges of irrigation and disease control as well as helping to develop a sustainable market for inputs and developing local agricultural skills.