SABUKO’s Sustainable Development Plans in Kakheti Region: a study on the export potential of sheep milk products and Georgian wool

The article was originally published by Entrepreneur Georgia.  

SABUKO (Society for Nature Conservation) has been actively implementing various activities in the Kakheti region for the past few years. Following the successful completion of the project “Restoring Gallery Forest and Grasslands in the Iori river valley ” in 2019-2022, SABUKO carried out the second phase of the initiative: “The Kakheti Steppes: A fragile balance between a living landscape or a future desert”. The project aims to support local farmers in the Kakheti region, preserve biodiversity, implement sustainable pasture management approaches, and empower the local community.

These directions are closely interconnected. Sustainable pasture management is multidimensional and involves harmonious human-wildlife coexistence. In order to strengthen the local community, SABUKO decided to strengthen farmers in a way that ensures the conservation of biodiversity in the project area. It includes focusing on value chain development, promoting the sale of products produced by farmers, and exploring export potential.

The Export Development Association (EDA) carried out a study on export opportunities for sheep milk and wool products. The Export Development Association (EDA) was founded in 2012 with the mission to help Georgian enterprises grow and diversify their exports through advocacy, advisory, and promotion. EDA is a member-driven association uniting up to 100 Georgian export-oriented producers and service providers. EDA offers Georgian exporters building capacity, developing an export marketing plan, providing export management services, selecting the target export market, and breaking down trade barriers. Providing various services, the organization actively collaborates with international donor organizations, state agencies and undertakes various export promotion initiatives with their assistance. The scope of activity is broad, however, keeping the experience in mind, the team of the association is actively working in the agricultural direction.

The history of cooperation between SABUKO and the EDA dates back to 2020, when, within the arrangement of the first phase of the project, the association conducted a study on “Sheep & Sheep Products Potential in EU & GCC Countries”; while within the second phase, the aim of the study was to determine Georgian sheep milk and wool potential in EU & GCC countries.

The research methodology encompassed data collection from online sources by the association’s team, consultations with beneficiaries, and the organization, sorting, and processing of research materials. This process resulted in the creation of a research document that was subsequently uploaded online. Notably, the 2020 survey data was also updated to incorporate new regulations and technical specifications.

“Wool products are of interest to both EU and GCC countries and have export potential. However, the different technologies of wool production require high standards of integration and improvement or refinement to become competitive in the international market. Also, the development of waste management should be considered. It can be positively assessed that in the food sector, Georgia is allowed to export food products, among others, honey, Black Sea fish, and wool. In spite of that, the quality of production should be further developed to be able to supply raw materials corresponding to the market demands. Regarding the export potential of dairy products, we have conducted studies only in the GCC countries. Generally, the export of the mentioned products from Georgia to the EU countries is not allowed yet, however, private companies can get a special EU audit authorization and export dairy products” – Giorgi Gudabandze, Director of the Export Development Association stated.

The Export Development Association (EDA) conducted a survey in all regions of Georgia, studied the problems of export-oriented farmers and, based on the identification of these problems and needs, launched a website: Cropp2shop.ge.

The goal of the website is to provide companies with comprehensive information on export procedures, technical specifications, export markets and other interesting aspects. The website is a practical roadmap for export-oriented companies and makes it easier to obtain the information they need.

Crop2shop.ge offers up to 22 products, including dairy products and wool. For each product, the customer can search for the information needed to export to the requested country. The aim of the website is to provide export-oriented companies with information on regulations and technical requirements for specific products. As part of the cooperation with SABUKO, sheep milk products, and wool have been added to the list and relevant information was added.

As per the 2014 Georgia-EU Association Agreement, Georgia is obliged to develop food production and approximate its quality to EU standards. Significant improvements are constantly taking place, however, there is still a lot of work to be done to recognize this requirement and join the EU market.

The SABUKO project’s goal of promoting harmonious human-wildlife coexistence also encompasses the development of a sustainable waste management mechanism, including the processing, sale and export of wool. Research and data analyses show that local farmers are unaware of export regulations and standards. Moreover, local farmers in the region produce dairy goods using outdated techniques, and the quality of their products falls short of European standards. It should be mentioned that dairy products, compared to other foodstuffs, are a high-risk group and must go through several stages to ensure proper quality; however, there are private enterprises that are planning to obtain individual authorizations from the European Commission audit to sell dairy products in the EU.

Production approaches are also developing in Georgia at a slow pace and a high standard is gradually being introduced. Furthermore, Georgian consumers are interested in receiving high-quality food products produced in compliance with regulations.

The Export Development Association study is publicly available and highlights all the regulations or findings that farmers and producers should consider if they want to export their products. The study recommends improving production methods so that Georgia can become part of the developed world and embrace international markets. In addition, the involvement of the government and the development of appropriate legislative proposals is of paramount importance in order to develop the production standard and give private enterprises opportunities for growth. State agencies are well conscious of the commitments undertaken by the Association Agreement and these innovations are gradually being integrated into the Georgian legislation. Mechanisms for enforcing and monitoring these laws need to be designed to improve the overall environment with a unified approach so that Georgian production gets closer to the European Union standards.

“An essential part is the registration and production records of farmers in the SABUKO project area by the government. Also, training and awareness raising for farmers is meaningful as they can produce properly and sell their food products. The food that we consume can have a big impact on our health. So, with the help of government or private organizations, farmers need to increase their knowledge to be able to produce high-quality products that are safe. This is the most important part that needs to be worked on a lot. Soviet methods of production are still kept to some degree, involving the production of mass and large quantities of products with lower costs and lower quality. Besides, farmers living in the region make products using very old methods, which generates great risk factors for people,” – Giorgi Gudabandze, Director of the Export Development Association noted.

SABUKO’s plans for the Kakheti region are long-term. The ongoing “The Kakheti Steppes” project will be finalized in 2027. A study on the export potential of Georgian sheep milk and wool products has demonstrated a lot of interesting results. In the near future, SABUKO together with the Export Development Association (EDA) is planning to organize training courses on “Marketing and Sales”, including food production and safety issues. Based on the study results, further project activities are devised in order for SABUKO to respond to existing challenges and promote the sustainable development of the region.

Related Posts

SABUKO’s Sustainable Development Plans in Kakheti Region: a study on the export potential of sheep milk products and Georgian wool

The article was originally published by Entrepreneur Georgia.  

SABUKO (Society for Nature Conservation) has been actively implementing various activities in the Kakheti region for the past few years. Following the successful completion of the project “Restoring Gallery Forest and Grasslands in the Iori river valley ” in 2019-2022, SABUKO carried out the second phase of the initiative: “The Kakheti Steppes: A fragile balance between a living landscape or a future desert”. The project aims to support local farmers in the Kakheti region, preserve biodiversity, implement sustainable pasture management approaches, and empower the local community.

These directions are closely interconnected. Sustainable pasture management is multidimensional and involves harmonious human-wildlife coexistence. In order to strengthen the local community, SABUKO decided to strengthen farmers in a way that ensures the conservation of biodiversity in the project area. It includes focusing on value chain development, promoting the sale of products produced by farmers, and exploring export potential.

The Export Development Association (EDA) carried out a study on export opportunities for sheep milk and wool products. The Export Development Association (EDA) was founded in 2012 with the mission to help Georgian enterprises grow and diversify their exports through advocacy, advisory, and promotion. EDA is a member-driven association uniting up to 100 Georgian export-oriented producers and service providers. EDA offers Georgian exporters building capacity, developing an export marketing plan, providing export management services, selecting the target export market, and breaking down trade barriers. Providing various services, the organization actively collaborates with international donor organizations, state agencies and undertakes various export promotion initiatives with their assistance. The scope of activity is broad, however, keeping the experience in mind, the team of the association is actively working in the agricultural direction.

The history of cooperation between SABUKO and the EDA dates back to 2020, when, within the arrangement of the first phase of the project, the association conducted a study on “Sheep & Sheep Products Potential in EU & GCC Countries”; while within the second phase, the aim of the study was to determine Georgian sheep milk and wool potential in EU & GCC countries.

The research methodology encompassed data collection from online sources by the association’s team, consultations with beneficiaries, and the organization, sorting, and processing of research materials. This process resulted in the creation of a research document that was subsequently uploaded online. Notably, the 2020 survey data was also updated to incorporate new regulations and technical specifications.

“Wool products are of interest to both EU and GCC countries and have export potential. However, the different technologies of wool production require high standards of integration and improvement or refinement to become competitive in the international market. Also, the development of waste management should be considered. It can be positively assessed that in the food sector, Georgia is allowed to export food products, among others, honey, Black Sea fish, and wool. In spite of that, the quality of production should be further developed to be able to supply raw materials corresponding to the market demands. Regarding the export potential of dairy products, we have conducted studies only in the GCC countries. Generally, the export of the mentioned products from Georgia to the EU countries is not allowed yet, however, private companies can get a special EU audit authorization and export dairy products” – Giorgi Gudabandze, Director of the Export Development Association stated.

The Export Development Association (EDA) conducted a survey in all regions of Georgia, studied the problems of export-oriented farmers and, based on the identification of these problems and needs, launched a website: Cropp2shop.ge.

The goal of the website is to provide companies with comprehensive information on export procedures, technical specifications, export markets and other interesting aspects. The website is a practical roadmap for export-oriented companies and makes it easier to obtain the information they need.

Crop2shop.ge offers up to 22 products, including dairy products and wool. For each product, the customer can search for the information needed to export to the requested country. The aim of the website is to provide export-oriented companies with information on regulations and technical requirements for specific products. As part of the cooperation with SABUKO, sheep milk products, and wool have been added to the list and relevant information was added.

As per the 2014 Georgia-EU Association Agreement, Georgia is obliged to develop food production and approximate its quality to EU standards. Significant improvements are constantly taking place, however, there is still a lot of work to be done to recognize this requirement and join the EU market.

The SABUKO project’s goal of promoting harmonious human-wildlife coexistence also encompasses the development of a sustainable waste management mechanism, including the processing, sale and export of wool. Research and data analyses show that local farmers are unaware of export regulations and standards. Moreover, local farmers in the region produce dairy goods using outdated techniques, and the quality of their products falls short of European standards. It should be mentioned that dairy products, compared to other foodstuffs, are a high-risk group and must go through several stages to ensure proper quality; however, there are private enterprises that are planning to obtain individual authorizations from the European Commission audit to sell dairy products in the EU.

Production approaches are also developing in Georgia at a slow pace and a high standard is gradually being introduced. Furthermore, Georgian consumers are interested in receiving high-quality food products produced in compliance with regulations.

The Export Development Association study is publicly available and highlights all the regulations or findings that farmers and producers should consider if they want to export their products. The study recommends improving production methods so that Georgia can become part of the developed world and embrace international markets. In addition, the involvement of the government and the development of appropriate legislative proposals is of paramount importance in order to develop the production standard and give private enterprises opportunities for growth. State agencies are well conscious of the commitments undertaken by the Association Agreement and these innovations are gradually being integrated into the Georgian legislation. Mechanisms for enforcing and monitoring these laws need to be designed to improve the overall environment with a unified approach so that Georgian production gets closer to the European Union standards.

“An essential part is the registration and production records of farmers in the SABUKO project area by the government. Also, training and awareness raising for farmers is meaningful as they can produce properly and sell their food products. The food that we consume can have a big impact on our health. So, with the help of government or private organizations, farmers need to increase their knowledge to be able to produce high-quality products that are safe. This is the most important part that needs to be worked on a lot. Soviet methods of production are still kept to some degree, involving the production of mass and large quantities of products with lower costs and lower quality. Besides, farmers living in the region make products using very old methods, which generates great risk factors for people,” – Giorgi Gudabandze, Director of the Export Development Association noted.

SABUKO’s plans for the Kakheti region are long-term. The ongoing “The Kakheti Steppes” project will be finalized in 2027. A study on the export potential of Georgian sheep milk and wool products has demonstrated a lot of interesting results. In the near future, SABUKO together with the Export Development Association (EDA) is planning to organize training courses on “Marketing and Sales”, including food production and safety issues. Based on the study results, further project activities are devised in order for SABUKO to respond to existing challenges and promote the sustainable development of the region.

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