Pest be gone? Georgian hazelnut exports grow 49%
The export of hazelnuts from Georgia has increased by 49 percent on the heels of the Georgian government’s announcement that farmers have defeated the stinkbug, which has been destroying walnut crops throughout Western Georgia since 2016.
This is a great success for the country’s economy – nuts are among the ten largest export goods in Georgia.
In the period from August 1, 2020 to January 31, 2021, $79.2 million were exported from Georgia.
$26.8 million more than in the same period in 2019.
A monster the size of a fingernail
The marmorated stink bug – Halyomorpha halys – feeds on plants, and hazelnuts are among the most preferred in its diet. The first crop was almost completely lost in 2016, the next were only partially saved, despite massive measures and international assistance.
“The quality and, accordingly, the price of the handed over nuts is easy to determine. There is a ‘guillotine’ at each reception point. A handful of nuts are taken from each bag, no more than a hundred in total. They are split and the core is placed in the ‘guillotine’. A huge flat blade cuts it in half – and everything becomes immediately clear. If ninety out of a hundred are white and healthy, then the farmer will get the maximum price.
For more than three years, most farmers did not receive anything at all – the nuts were almost completely rotten,” says Roman Chakhaia, a resident of the village of Kakhati in Samegrelo.
The blow was struck on an area of about 70 hectares in the regions of Samegrelo and Guria. Family farms were able not only to retain, but also to develop this business here, despite at least a decade in the difficult 1990s, when they did not receive any support from the state at all.
The damage in 2017 alone exceeded 60 million lari [about $24 million].
The strategic pest control plan was drawn up with the help of a biologist at the University of Pennsylvania, Professor Greg Kravchuk. 7.5 million lari [about $3 million] were allocated from the budget. Georgia received an additional $8 million in aid from the United States.
“In 2020, a large and high-quality harvest of hazelnuts was obtained. This was the result of a successfully chosen state strategy and large-scale measures,” the Georgian Ministry of Agriculture said.
Hazelnuts are one of the few Georgian products sold mainly in the EU market.
Countries with the most exported Georgian nuts in 2020:
- Germany – 4,165 tons
- Italy – 3,766 tons
- Czech Republic – 716 tons
- Lithuania – 442 tons
- Poland – 376 tons
- Spain – 430 tons
- Bulgaria – 345 tons
- France – 359 tons
- Latvia – 128 tons
- Greece – 97 tons
- Estonia – 88 tons
- Slovakia – 86 tons
- Luxembourg – 84 tons
- Belgium – 44 tons
- Austria – 22 tons
- Croatia – 10 tons