The FINANCIAL — The EBRD is providing Populi, one of the leading food retail operators in Georgia, with a $12 million loan.
The funds will help support the company to expand its retail network and improve its fresh product operations. Populi has grown rapidly in recent years in line with a quickly developing retail market and currently has 40 stores in Tbilisi and other large cities of the country.
As part of the investment, the company is also renovating its warehouse and processing plant for receiving, storing, producing and delivering fresh products to its shops. Centralising these tasks is expected to improve hygiene and distribution standards. This will be supported by a strengthening of its IT systems.
With the support of Belgium’s Walloon region, the EBRD is in the process of funding a technical cooperation project to assist the company in improving the way it is handling its fresh produce.
The Georgian retail sector has more than tripled from 2001 to 2006. Despite recent setbacks, the share of modern retail formats as offered by Populi is expected to grow. While consumers benefit from a greater variety of good quality products, this offers local suppliers additional opportunities to sell their products.
Gilles Mettetal, EBRD Director for Agribusiness, said “the EBRD is very happy to support this project that will help raise the quality of the retail sector in Georgia and also increase competition at a time when food production and distribution remains an important issue.”
The investment follows a successful project by the EBRD’s Turn Around Management (TAM) and Business Advisory Services (BAS) Programme. The TAM team helped to restructure the Populi’s processing facilities, improve its product lines and develop a sales and marketing strategy, while BAS assisted with the setting up of a financial accounts and management information systems.
In the agribusiness sector alone, the EBRD has directly committed more than €5.0 billion in over 330 projects across Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States since 1991.