An interview with Minister of Agriculture of Georgia Otar Danelia
How the Russian-Turkish confrontation will affect agriculture and economy of Georgia?
No one is interested in what is now happening in the region. We hope that the tension between Moscow and Istanbul will be settled.
Our strategy that envisages diversification of markets, promotion of exports has not changed. For the relationship with Russia we do not need a special reason.
We do not plan anything special. We take into account the current state of Russian-Georgian relations and cooperation with Russian counterparts in the same format as before.
Don’t you negotiate about the growth of export of Georgian products to Russia? If Russia needs it in the backdrop of the recent ban on imports of Turkish products?
We always have contacts with Russia. We do not take special measures. We work in a normal rhythm, mainly at the level of departments.
Turkey is one of the main commercial and political partners of Georgia. The statements heard from you and the government are in general political. Is it so indeed?
The first thing to take into account is the reality that exists in our relationship with Russia. In the current format, we have all the opportunities for contact, so we do not have any new approaches. We continue to cooperate as well as Russia- Turkey conflict.
How real and tangible are possible benefits from more intensive relations with Russia amid a ban on imports of agricultural products from Turkey?
Of course, export to Russia is beneficial, as it is one of the biggest markets in the world. We do not have the luxury to choose the markets according to our views and preferences. All markets are important and each market has its own risk.
For example, Ukraine to which we exported Georgian products in large quantities, but now it has sharply reduced because of the political and economic situation in the country. Our responsibility is to minimize risks.
The Russian market is one of the largest in the world and in recent years we did not have any artificial barriers in terms of exports. Exports to other countries such as China, Japan, Europe Significantly are also increasing, in particular, nuts, mineral water and wine.
Specifically, what business segment has received the greatest benefit from the export to Russia?
Winemaking, of course. Mineral water and nuts exports to Russia have also increased. Though of course, we are not talking only about Russia, export to other countries is also growing.
Do the Georgian exports depend on the Russian market?
The EU accounted for 35% of total exports of agricultural products and we will do everything to facilitate the diversification of markets. It is important that Europe’s share in our exports is growing, mainly due to the decline in the share of the CIS countries. So we are not very much dependent on the Russian market.
Of course, every market has its risks and our duty is to minimize them.
When we talk about market diversification, the question arises – if Georgia has managed to use benefits received from an association agreement with the EU to increase exports to Europe?
Our exports to the EU grew by $ 40-45 million. A year has not passed, and for us it is very important to improve the performance in December.
For many years, our agricultural products did not differ by a large added value, basically it was a primary production.
In general, we help business, but to meet all the European standards requires a lot of time. For example, we stimulate the production of biological products and we can compete in quality with many developed countries. For us, the quantity is not important, as we’ll never catch up with the leading countries. Georgian products should not be associated with quantity but quality.
Economic contacts with Russia are viewed through a political prism. They say that the population of the regions where citrus fruits and grapes are traditionally grown are more pro-Russian due to the export of wine and tangerines. How justified are such suspicions?
I do not know how to comment on such statements. If someone wrote this , it indicates the total incompetence of the author of such statements. At least, this is an insult to 750 000 Georgian peasants, when they say that we should destroy agriculture so as not to be dependent on agriculture.
We are trying to achieve import substitution, stimulating exports, developing processing facilities to make economy more competitive. Today, agriculture accounts for only 9% of GDP, and this is just the beginning.