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Plum – cheap product or an opportunity for Georgian growers?

Plum sales have already started in Georgia. The main season begins at the end of August.

In the current season, plum trees were partly damaged by spring frosts in the Shida Kartli region, but it is expected that production volume will not drop sharply. Consequently, growersdon’t expect higher prices than the previous year, unless demand for export increases.

Plum is not the first choice for commercial growers in Georgia, usually, they plant it in small areas, choosing other fruits for the main production. Popular varieties of plums are Stanley, President, and Empress but Stanley is the most widespread. Farmers frequently complain about low prices on variety Stanley which is the reason why they don’t want further investment in plum production. But there are those who count on its production.

Tiriphoni Gardens is among those companies that have planted plums on a small portion of the orchard. The company owns a 37 ha fruit orchard in the Shida Kartli region and only 6 ha of plum. Co-founder of the company Zurab Gojiashvili explains that, in 2018, motivation to plant the plum was relatively high prices in 2016-2017 and lower planting costs. For comparison, they could have planted 1 ha of an intensive apple orchard with the budget for a 6 ha plum orchard. But today, they are less interested in the plum business. The reason is the small scale due to the absence of large producers on the market, which makes plum less interesting for export and, on the other hand, the oversupplied local market. Last year the company has sold its harvest for 0.3 GEL/kg ($0.1) and has no better expectations for this year.

However, there are producers with a more positive outlook. Roman Chkhenkeli owns a 5 ha plum orchard in the Kakheti region. He has several varieties of plums, including European and Japanese. Plums ripen earlier in the Kakheti region than in other regions of Georgia. Chkhenkeli has already sold Japanese varieties and now has started harvesting Stanley, President, and Empress. According to Chkhenkeli, this year plum might become demanded on the Russian market, he already got offers from exporters. He thinks that export prices will be higher on high-quality plums this year.

Besides those who count on export opportunities this year, there are growers who found a way to produce a high-value product from relatively cheap plums. Shota Beridze’s family owns 20 ha orchards in the Shida Kartli region, plum is not the main product for this orchard, but the owner takes its production seriously. In 2015 when the orchard was planted, they were planning to sell plums as fresh fruit, but after the first harvest, they realized that the price of fresh plums was low and it was not profitable to sell them this way. As a result, Beridze started producing distilled alcoholic beverage, plum infusion, in 2020. Beridze explains that until now there was not available high-quality, locally produced, branded plum vodka on the market and they saw this opportunity. He thinks that the product has the potential to become popular locally and in export markets.

As we mentioned above, the main variety of plum produced in Georgia is Stanley, which is used in dry fruit production. Every year a significant amount from the Stanley harvest is purchased by processing companies, because of that, they are one of the price determinants on the market on plums. Anano Bejanishvili, the representative of dry fruit producing company Kareli Fruits  commented on the upcoming season in conversation with EastFruit.

“Company plans to start buying plum at the end of August. Based on information from growers, we expect that this year the harvest will be less, but the quality will be higher, as with less harvest the average size of the fruit increases. As we produce dry fruit the size and quality of the product are important. The company buys only premium quality plums from the growers. Last year the average price per kg premium quality plum, variety Stanley, was 0.4-0.45 GEL ($0.13-$0.15). They expect that prices will not increase this year as supply will still be higher than the demand from processors. The company plans to purchase over 300-400 tons of plums this year compared to 170-200 tons last year,” said Bejanishvili.

According to EastFruit price monitoring results, last week’s plum prices varied between 0.8 GEL ($0.26) to 2.5 GEL ($0.8). Prices are expected to fall at the beginning of September.

EastFruit

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