A BLOOMING INDUSTRY: GEORGIA FACES A GROWING DEMAND FOR FLOWERS
There is steady growth in Georgia's domestic and imported flower and garden sector.
The Camellia Flowers Art Salon on Tbilisi's Vazha-Pshavela Avenue opened a little over a year ago, selling cut flowers imported from the Netherlands and Ecuador.
The salon charges between $22 and $290 for a bouquet of flowers, depending on the number and selection of flowers, relatively costly for a country where average monthly income per capita is 273 lari ($125).
Despite the prices, demand has been steady and is growing, according to the Salon's manager, Bondo Machavariani.
Growing Number of Imports
From 2010 through 2015, Georgia imported cut flowers from more than ten countries, with Ecuador, Turkey, the Netherlands, Armenia and Azerbaijan being the top five countries of origin of flower imports last year in terms of product value, according to GeoStat.
From 2010 to 2015, the volume and value of imported flowers increased, while the number of exports of flowers halved.
In figures, in 2015, 654.1 tons of flowers were imported, compared to 325.4 tons in 2010.
Georgian flower exports fell from 30.9 tons in 2010 to 15.9 tons in 2015.
Demand vs. Quality
Statistics for Georgian-grown flowers are not readily available, although there are data on the number of greenhouse businesses registered by GeoStat in the fields of gardening, decorative gardening and nursery throughout Georgia—385. Nearly half, 160, are located in Tbilisi.
Camellia's Machavariani told Investor.ge that the Georgian market is dominated by local production, which is, however, not of the same quality as the imports and cannot meet the demands of local flower shops.
"The lifespan of imported flowers is four times longer than that of local flowers.Therefore, prices go up," he added. The high price of commercial gas in Georgia makes it "impossible" for local growers to compete in terms of quality and price, he indicated.
To improve the local flower sector, the Georgian government and donors, like the European Neighbourhood Programme for Agriculture and Rural Development (ENPARD), are working with greenhouses and entrepreneurs.
The Agricultural Projects Management Agency, an arm of the Georgian Ministry of Agriculture, has been running a preferential agri-credit project since 2013.
"The program invites those interested into the flower greenhouse business, in addition to other services.
The sector is also attracting interest from international donors, who are supporting various startups in rural areas.
Vardi-2014, a joint cooperative of five energetic, innovative women from western Georgia's Abasha region, is one such beneficiary.
The cooperative decided to create a rose greenhouse using support offered by The ENPARD. The European Union programme started in 2013 in Georgia and through variety of aid modalities has thus far allocated 102 million euro in support of agriculture and rural development in the country. The ENPARD aims to improve the efficiency of the institutions involved in agriculture, to strengthen cooperation among small farmers and to stimulate economic growth in the rural areas.
The ENPARD provided 7,909 lari in support ($3,627) for Vardi-2014, in partnership with Care International. The cooperative's financial contribution was 4,488 lari ($2,058), plus a non-monetary contribution via the greenhouse construction amounting to 8,000 lari ($3,670). With this grant, the cooperative members renovated the facility, equipped it with ventilation and irrigation systems, a special shade net, and purchased 500 rose bushes, increasing their total number to 1,600 bushes, according to www.enpard.ge.
Nurturing a New Generation
There is also a rising demand for professional florists. The Georgian Patriarchate Community College of Decorative Gardening was authorized in 2011, and over the past five years, the college has issued 550 diplomas - and 40 percent of its alumni are employed at florist shops, as private gardeners, or they have opened their own stores.