HomeHorticultural businessStoriesWhy invest in modern strawberry production in Georgia when Turkey is the neighbor? — plans of cooperative “Madlieri”

Why invest in modern strawberry production in Georgia when Turkey is the neighbor? – plans of cooperative “Madlieri”

EastFruit periodically publishes an analysis of the Georgian strawberry market, where local producers frequently comment about the price competition with Turkish strawberries and its negative effects on local production, at the same time we observe the developments in the market, although big investments mostly are made in controlled environment production rather than open field production. Cooperative Madlieri is the newcomer of the 2023 season. EastFruit spoke with the head of the cooperative Giorgi Tavadze about the specifics of the strawberry business and the niche they’ve chosen.

Cooperative Madlieri plans to produce 300 tons of strawberries in 2023 in a newly constructed greenhouse in the Shida Kartli region. According to Tavadze, this season the aim is to make premium quality strawberries available to Georgian consumers on the supermarket shelves throughout the year. The total investment of the project is 2 million GEL ($804,910), of which 850,000 GEL ($342,087) is taken within the preferential agro credit program.

It is a hydrophonics greenhouse with hanging gutters developed and assembled in Georgia. The system is mechanized, which makes it possible to adjust the height of individual rows to pick berries or carry out other necessary operations. According to the head of the cooperative, Giorgi Tavadze, the system designed by them is an improved version of the existing gutter systems. The original system allows to receive five times more berries per hectare compared to open field production. In the greenhouse of the 5700 square meters, 152,000 strawberry plants are placed. Although this is only one module, according to Tavadze, it is planned to increase production up to ten modules in the next three years.

The Californian strawberry variety Cabrillo was selected for the production, which can produce 3.5 kilograms of berries per plant, although the cooperative expects to harvest up to 2 kilograms.

Natural gas is used for heating in the greenhouse, although the heating system is also experimental. According to Tavadze to get 50-70% of the estimated maximum harvest in the coldest months, it is enough to warm up only the plant’s root system up to 10 degrees Celsius. For this purpose, an irrigation pipe system was installed in the greenhouse, which warms the roots with water. The plant needs heating only from January to mid-April. In 2023, the expenditure on heating amounted to 30,000 GEL ($12,074).

Source: Ministry of Environment Protection and Agriculture of Georgia

Now cooperative supplies local packagingg company “Georgian Agro Product”, which sells berries under the brand name Planta in supermarket chains, but in May cooperative will produce more than one ton of berries per day and plans to supply supermarkets directly.

The first-year goal is to uptake the local market, the small quantities will be exported too, but in the following years, the share of exports will increase. Tavadze considers the Gulf countries as an export market pointing out that if currently premium quality strawberries are supplied from the USA on this market, which takes 10-12 hours on the way, Georgia has a much better geographical location to deliver berries in a shorter time by air.

Source: Ministry of Environment Protection and Agriculture of Georgia

In conversation with EastFruit, Tavadze spoke about the price competition on the local market, which is heavily supplied with the relatively cheap Turkish and local open field strawberries during the Spring. Tavadze doesn’t consider even today’s prices as a problem for the profitability of the greenhouse production. Even if they sell at the wholesale market today, where prices are in a range of 4-8 GEL ($1.61-$3.22), the business will still be profitable. However, their niche is not agricultural markets, where unsorted berries are sold. The prices of local, branded strawberries in supermarkets and niche stores are much higher, the price of a kilogram is between13-23 GEL ($5.23-$9.26) today, which, according to Tavadze is a very high price, although increased competition is likely to affect these prices.


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