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Unprecedented imports of potatoes in Georgia – how much more will the country need?

Analysts at EastFruit note that wholesale prices for potatoes in Georgia are remaining stable. The price levels are record-breaking. The latest weekly survey revealed that the local suppliers hoped for even higher prices given the poor harvest and increased demand in Georgia.

As EastFruit has covered earlier, potato production in the key producing region in Georgia Samtskhe-Javakheti was very low this season. The main cause for the drop in yields was unfavorable weather conditions. Given strong local demand and poor crops, Georgian producers expected wholesale prices to keep rising as the country moved closer to the end of the 2022/2023 season (May 2023). However, the prices do not further increase as the gap between the Georgian stocks and demand was filled by the imported potatoes.

Monthly imports of potatoes in Georgia by season, tonnes

Data source: Ministry of Finance of Georgia

Thanks to the low local stocks and high wholesale prices in Georgia enabling the imports, in December and January Georgia imported 11 000 tonnes of potatoes. The volume is unusually large for this period. The main suppliers were Russia and Belarus. Import price which includes the cost of the product, transportation to Georgia, and insurance, amounted to 0.71 GEL/kg ($0.27).

As the price monitoring tool of EastFruit shows, the current wholesale price for Georgian potatoes is 1.80 GEL/kg ($0.68) – 40% higher than at the same time last year. Import statistics are limited to January as it is still February, although, we can still estimate that potato imports will be high in February too. EastFruit team sees plenty of imported potatoes offered on the local wholesale markets.

For its domestic consumption, Georgia usually needs 125 000 tonnes of potatoes from the Samtskhe-Javakheti region’s harvest, which covers a period from September to May. Official production statistics for the current season, or the harvest of 2022, are not available yet. Therefore, it is hard to tell how much more potatoes Georgia needs this season, but we can assume a scenario based on the past years’ experience.

The lowest volume of potatoes produced in the Samtskhe-Javakheti region in the last eight years amounts to 100 000 tonnes, which was back in 2014. If we assume that the harvest of 2022 is similar to 2014, then Georgia would need to import 25 000 tonnes of potatoes from September 2022 to May 2023. 13 000 tonnes of potatoes have already been imported since September 2022. Thus, Georgia would need 12 000 more.

However, this simple scenario omits such significant variables as the growing local demand due to the influx of Russian citizens in Georgia. Also, the current harvest may be worse than that of 2014. Imports in January 2023 were 3.3 higher than in 2014, which may be a hint of that. All these points lead us to think that until May 2023, the country will likely need to import more than the simple estimate of 12 000 tonnes of potatoes.

EastFruit

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