HomeHorticultural businessInterviews“The Georgian hazelnut would be in high demand in the US if it wasn’t for the quality” expert says
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“The Georgian hazelnut would be in high demand in the US if it wasn’t for the quality” expert says

Harvest of hazelnut in Georgia starts in a week time. The last season has revealed a recovery trend highlighted by the highest production level in recent five years after brown stinkbug invasion – 33 tnd tons. This year growers are hoping for even a better production, however, to achieve success on the global market the quality of nuts should be improved too.

Also: Aflatoxins remain a major problem for Georgian hazelnuts, despite recent improvements

We spoke with Mr. Blai Llort Marti, agronomist and technician, former CEO of FRUSESA, BAIN BORGES International Group, who has already spent more than 10 years in Georgia, sourcing various nuts to the European Union and the US from the region.

On expectations for 2021/22 harvest in Georgia

“With my team of Agro-Origins we have visited Samegrelo a couple of weeks ago to monitor our sourcing partners. Indeed, future harvest looks promising. The quantity of hazelnut in Georgia may increase by 10% and finally reach 2015 year in-shell quantities. However, it is early to assess how much of that quantity is marketable and can be sold for exports.  The last season showed 4-5% of hidden rotten and 3-4% insect bite in kernel of Georgian hazelnut. While European buyers are looking for maximum 2% of hidden rotten and 0.5% of insect bite. For comparison, in hazelnuts from Azerbaijan we have 0.5% of hidden rotten, that’s why traders must pay for Azerbaijan hazelnut 30% more”, – says Mr. Llort.

it takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it

“I believe in Georgia’s hazelnut industry, as I was successfully exporting Georgian hazelnut to California in 2015-2016 just before the quality crisis caused by the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB). We have arranged cooperation with Candor AGS, based in California, US, who are suppliers of Costco Wholesales,  aiming to source kernels of Georgian hazelnut for their nut’s mixes for retail consumers. Before we also have made Due Diligence for sourcing pine nuts from Far East, Russia together with Costco and WWF social and ecologic program.  Unfortunately, this opportunity is lost for Georgia, as global business is very sensitive to the continuous quality. As Warren Buffet said, it takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it”

it is impossible to develop a sustainable project in rural areas, if there are not young people

“It is very unfortunate, that people are leaving rural areas of Samegrelo, where most of Georgian hazelnut is grown. The trend was already visible before pandemics, as population decreased by 3.7% in the region and is more deteriorated due to labor migration to Turkey due to economic crisis caused by COVID19. There women are working in hazelnut and tea plantations. According to my estimations only about 50% of factories are fully operational as there is simply no working hands for hazelnut sorting, as it is still manual process here. Youth is moving to the capital in the search for better life, while we need their energy, dedication, and long-term vision here, in rural Samegrelo. Otherwise, on processing side the sector is well established – HACCP principles are introduced, and National Food Agency regularly monitors factories. I wish growers are more involved in the process, taking responsibility for the quality and control over spraying and following production protocols and not only hoping that Government will take care of everything. It is the seventh season after the BMSB crisis and in terms of quality we still have doubts. Something should be changed.”

EastFruit

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