Georgian company Toki Agro Products LLC plans to resume supplying wild-grown organic asparagus to the market in 2021. The company will also start a pilot project to grow various varieties of asparagus on its own property. The agricultural land of the group of companies, including Toki Agro Products, and whose products are manufactured under the brand name Green Republic, are located in the highlands of the Aspindza municipality of the Samtskhe-Javakheti region in the southern part of Georgia. Today, the group owns about 20 hectares. Strawberries are grown on 3 hectares and various vegetables and cereals are grown on the rest.
Tornike Mzhavanadze, director and co-founder of Toki Agro Products, told EastFruit that wild-grown organic asparagus of the Green Republic brand first appeared in Georgian supermarket chains in 2019. These asparagus are endemic varieties in Georgia and they are harvested in the spring from an alpine, ecologically clean area.
“Together with Ilia State University, we conducted a study on endemic asparagus varieties in the Samtskhe-Javakheti region. Based on the results, the co-founders of the company – myself and Levan Shanava – decided to organize its collection and delivery to the market. In appearance, the wild asparagus we collect from an ecologically clean zone is very similar to cultivated varieties, but it has a special taste – much tastier and more aromatic. In addition, prices for organic products are higher. In 2019, we received a bio-certificate for asparagus from Caucascert, a local bio-certification body accredited by DAkkS in Germany. After that, we began supplying our products to Georgian supermarket chains where they immediately became in high demand. However, in the spring of 2020 amid the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, we suspended production. In 2021, we plan to resume production again in early spring when the harvest begins and update the bio-certificate.
“Again, we will supply the products only to the Georgian market in supermarket chains. It is too early to speak of export at this stage. In 2019, we sent trial batches of our products to the European Union and received very good responses. However, considering the collection of asparagus growing in the wild is very dependent on weather conditions, the productivity of the picking teams, as well as other factors affecting transportation logistics, means we cannot ensure its stable supply to Europe,” says Mr. Mzhavanadze.
The co-founder also states it will be possible to consider the export of fresh asparagus only after the company has established its own cultivation of asparagus. “In parallel with the production of wild-grown asparagus in 2021, we plan to plant on our farm several cultivated varieties that are most popular today, including in Europe. Also, we will plant endemic wild varieties on our land. Perhaps we will grow some part of the asparagus in greenhouse conditions. We want to see which varieties take root better as well as give higher yields in specific soil and climatic conditions. This will be an experiment, but it is not the first in our agribusiness’ history and we are preparing for it now. Ideally, cultivated varieties will enable us to secure export stability. For the wild-grown varieties, the yield of which will naturally be lower, the cultivated will replenish the assortment. Of course, all this will be carried out again through bio-production. If everything goes well, then I think by 2024 (since asparagus, as a rule, yields a harvest in the third year) we will start exporting our products,” Tornike Mzhavanadze said.
Mr. Mzhavanadze adds that the company is considering the European Union as a promising export market for their organic asparagus.
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