The FINANCIAL -- The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) joined forces to raise standards in Georgia’s dairy sector at an event supported by the Georgian Ministry of Agriculture.
The first Caucasus Dairy Congress, which started today in Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi, attracted over 250 participants from the Caucasus and eastern European regions, including commercial dairy farmers, processors, equipment suppliers, industry experts and representatives from the Georgian government.
The initiative is designed to build capacity in the sector, and to improve the quality and safety of Georgian dairy products while making the sector more efficient and attractive for investors.
The event will promote Georgia's commercial dairy farming sector and provide an opportunity to share knowledge about state-of-the-art technologies and food safety practices. This is particularly important for Georgia, which in 2014 joined the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area with the European Union (EU) and is working to align its food safety legislation with that of the EU.
The Congress is also an excellent opportunity for participating farmers and dairy industry stakeholders from Armenia and Azerbaijan to learn from Georgia's experience, according to EBRD.
“Commercial dairy farmers in Georgia have made considerable strides in a short time, with some producers improving production by 20 per cent in less than a year,” said Victoria Zinchuk, Associate Director of the Agribusiness team at the EBRD.
“The aim of this Congress is to transfer as much knowledge as possible and to promote dairy business investments in Georgia, including in processing, which could be very profitable,” said Andriy Yarmak, an FAO agricultural economist.
Georgia has an excellent investment climate and ideal agro-climatic conditions for dairy farming. Demand for milk, cheese and other dairy products – many of which are produced only in Georgia – continues to grow.
The EBRD and FAO have been supporting commercial dairy farmers in the country to produce more high-quality milk that is safe to drink – a move that not only benefits consumers but also increases investor confidence.
They have trained 40 commercial farmers in all aspects of modern dairy production, and arranged for 20 farmers to visit dairy farms in Ukraine and attend workshops led by top Ukrainian dairy experts.
Since the project began, farmers trained by FAO and the EBRD have invested upwards of US$ 2.5 million in upgrading their operations, building new barns and buying more productive livestock.
Many have significantly improved the health and welfare of their cows, as well as their approach to feeding and milking – all resulting in higher yields and profits.
Using their own resources, a group of farmers set up the Association of Commercial Milk Producers of Georgia, which is modelled after a similar association in Ukraine.
“They have hired international experts to help them change their business model,” Yarmak said of the Association, which will share its experiences during the Congress. “They have basically become a knowledge centre for other commercial farmers in Georgia.”
The EBRD is a leading institutional investor in Georgia. Since the start of its operations in the country, the EBRD has invested over €2.98 billion in 202 projects in the country’s financial, corporate, infrastructure and energy sectors, with 91 per cent of these investments being in the private sector.
The FAO mandate in Georgia is to support national efforts to promote food security and sustainable development. FAO priorities in Georgia reflect the objectives and priorities of the Georgian government related to agricultural development. In essence, FAO assists the government in creating and implementing an institutional, legal and regulatory environment in Georgia that meets the strategic objectives for agricultural and rural development.