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Churchkhela Confusion

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The FINANCIAL — Maia Jajanashvili, the local entrepreneur whose company was widely advertised recently by the Ministry of Economics as the first company to be exporting the traditional Georgian sweets to the USA, says that everyone in Georgia was confused by the simple post on Amazon.com made by her teenage son.

 

Churchkhela, the homemade, sausage-shaped candies, were never exported to the United States. But this simple mistake inspired many ordinary Georgians, as well as government members, to start taking the churchkhela business seriously.

National TV channels as well as local press were quoting statements of the Ministry of Economics about the export of churchkhela. The Ministry of Agriculture said last week that it intends to host local exhibitions of the Georgian-made sweets in an effort to popularize Georgian products and companies in both local and international markets. The brand name churchkhela was also registered internationally in order to protect it from falsification.

Gvantsa Meladze, Head of the Export Promoting Department, claims that churchkhela by the company Dr. George have being getting sold on amazon.com. “The churchkhelas sold on amazon.com was only a test. No one expected such big demand. We have already sent another party of churchkhelas and after a month and a half they will be sold on amazon.com. Transportation requires about 45 days,” said Meladze.

 

Maia Jajanashvili, Director of Dr. George, told The FINANCIAL that churchkhela was never sold on Amazon by them. “We have never sold churchkhelas on amazon.com. We just posted the info about the product on the website. My 17 year old son George put product description and information on the website in the summer,” said Jajanashvili. “After we put the description on amazon.com, its administration contacted us and asked to start the realization of chucrhkhelas. But for this we need customers. There was only demand for 5-6 churchkhelas from Amazon’s users. For the transportation of 6 churchkhelas I need to spend at least 154 USD. Selling so few churchkhelas would simply not be profitable,” she said.

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“We do not want the media to talk about this issue while the export of churchkhela is still being delayed. Because churchkhela is not available on Amazon right now people assume it was once sold; that the test supply was exhausted and that is why people cannot order it,” she said. “Another batch will arrive in America and then it will be possible to order churchkhelas on amazon.com. It would be possible to order at least 100 churckhleas in one package,” Gvantsa Meladze, Head of the Export Promoting Department said.

 

Ani Kvaratskhelia, representative from Invest in Georgia, told The FINANCIAL that negotiations between Dr. George and American companies are being supported by the agency. “The only problem is that the parties cannot agree on a price. I predict that the negotiations will take from two to even six months. I am just helping Maia Jajanashvili in this negotiation process,” Kvaratskhelia said.

“Before the crisis in Greece we exported churchkhelas there and sold them for 6 USD. It is not clear to me why this price is not acceptable in the US when it was acceptable in Greece,” said Jajanashvili. “The transportation of 5,000 churchkhelas by plane costs 3,500 GEL. The American side would buy churchkhelas from my storehouse and transport them themselves. Our given price is a dollar and 97 cents,” she added.

In any case it was good PR for Dr. George. The company’s product is only available in Goodwill and Cheese Corner networks. People can buy it for 3.85 GEL. The company says that it produces about 1,000 churchkhelas every month which is a small number even on the local market.

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As for amazon.com, Georgian candy has 160 likes and several comments on the site recommending users to buy the ‘energy bar’ Churchkhela. “This is natural candy from Georgia, a tasty snack made from nuts (walnuts or hazelnuts usually) dipped in grape syrup. You should really try these if you ever get the opportunity,” comments one ‘LUV’.

The description of churchkhela written by George (son of Jajanashvili) says that churchkhela is a 100 percent natural sweet made from high quality Georgian wines.

“Churchkhela contains large amounts of natural vitamins, minerals, iron, which enriches the blood with oxygen. B vitamins stabilize the nervous system. Churchkhela is especially recommended for people engaged in mental work, those spending a lot of time at the computer. It’s known from history that churchkhela was a main source of food for Georgian warriors. It contains 400 kilocalories and provides the body with a daily source of energy,” says the description.   

The number of churchkhelas and list of countries where they are exported to have increased, according to the National Statistics Office of Georgia. 154 kg of churchkhela worth 2,547.6 USD was exported in 2010 to Kazakhstan. In 2011 Georgian candy appeared on new markets and export increased accordingly. 811.0 kg of churchkhela worth 5,839.6 USD was exported to New Zealand, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Lithuania and France. So far this year churchkhela has not been exported to Kazakhstan.

 

 

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