Tengiz Svanidze: Elevating Georgian Tea Production to New Heights
"Georgian tea has garnered substantial attention from government entities, the domestic market, and international investors," Tengiz Svanidze, president of the Georgian Tea Producers' Association, revealed on the "Business Partner" program.
He noted that, historically, during the Soviet era, there were 67,000 hectares of tea plantations. Today, only about 3,000 to 4,000 hectares remain, which are yet to reach full operational status for harvesting. Svanidze elucidated that reviving the vast tea plantation expanses of the past is impractical, as these lands now flourish with alternative crops like nuts and blueberries. "We have shifted focus from quantity to quality," he asserted. "Unlike the Soviet times, when tea of inferior quality was produced for export, we are now dedicated to cultivating only high-quality Georgian tea." He is confident about the superior quality of Georgian tea and is intent on enhancing its market competitiveness.
Innovative strides such as the Anaseuli Institute of Subtropical Crops and Tea Industry's new green tea processing line — which is energy-efficient and cost-effective — exemplify this commitment. Domestically, initiatives like the "Rehabilitation of Georgian Tea" are revitalizing the industry by restoring and expanding plantation bases.
"Since the program's inception, approximately 1,500 to 1,600 hectares of tea plantations have been rejuvenated. Increasing our plantations to 5,000 to 8,000 hectares will suffice to cement Georgia's reputation for high-quality tea," Svanidze believes. This year, the government kick-started a scheme to equip tea producers with manual picking and cutting machines, supported by 1,000 GEL in co-financing. Currently, Georgian tea constitutes about 20-25% of the national market share. Svanidze is optimistic that increasing this to 50-60% will spur export growth. Georgian tea, as it stands, is exported across various European nations, including the Baltic states, Croatia, and Germany.