In January 2021, Swiss chocolatier Camille Bloch will begin the implementation of a project in Georgia to plant a 650-hectare hazelnut orchard as well as the construction of a nut processing plant as reported by the agency Produce in Georgia. According to the Agency, the investment cost of the project is over $10 million.
Camille Bloch is a family-owned and operated chocolate and hazelnut business. The company was founded in Switzerland in 1929. Its main brands are Ragusa and Torino.
CB Georgia LLC was established in order to implement the project in Georgia with the participation of Camille Bloch. The land for the hazelnut plantation was selected in the Lagodekhi Municipality (Kakheti region, Eastern Georgia). Camille Bloch plans to use the hazelnuts grown in Georgia in the production of its chocolate.
According to representatives of Camille Bloch, the project will be implemented in stages. “We intend to plant the first 50 hectares with hazelnut trees in late January-early February 2021. We expect to add another 100 hectares in 2022. It will take about 6-7 years to fully implement our plans. It is necessary to equip the orchards and perform logistical work,” said Rene Meyer, head of procurement at Camille Bloch and director of CB Georgia, on the Business Partner show for Channel One.
When creating a plantation, it is designed to use innovative methods for soil cultivation and planting. In particular, according to Meyer, hazelnut seedlings grafted onto rootstocks with a deep and strong root system will be used, which will make it possible to get a better harvest and it is easier to harvest it using technology.
The company has attracted local qualified personnel to work the land who are currently involved in the preparation of the territory.
“We are bringing in new knowledge. This should be combined with the knowledge of local specialists regarding specific soil conditions for hazelnut cultivation. All this needs to be connected. Together we can be successful,” said Jessica Gershkowitz, head of corporate communications at Camille Bloch.
The fact that Georgia is the first country, besides Switzerland itself, where Camille Bloch decided to invest is noteworthy. (The company also cooperates with Ghana, but it only buys finished raw materials of cocoa beans there). According to Camille Bloch representatives, the choice was made on Georgia because it is one of the world leaders in hazelnut production and it has the infrastructure necessary for hazelnut processing.
Camille Bloch representatives noted that they do not expect a quick economic effect from the project. “We are a family company, we do not depend on the harvest of the first years, this is a long-term project, and we think about future generations,” they said.
Company representatives also expressed confidence that the COVID-19 pandemic will not derail their plans for the project in Georgia.
“The coronavirus pandemic hit the company’s business in Switzerland, naturally, but this is not a reason to postpone a new project. We are not a company that will wait for an improvement in the situation, we ourselves want to improve the situation…The company Camille Bloch itself was created during the global economic crisis. For us, the crisis is view rather as an opportunity to promote new directions,” they stressed.
*** Negotiations between Camille Bloch and Georgia regarding the hazelnut plantation and processing plant project lasted several years and entered its final phase in January 2020 after the Prime Minister of Georgia Giorgi Gakharia and the company’s executive director Daniel Bloch met at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
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