Issue 6, 2017. December-January



The triad of famous Georgian exports-wine, mineral water, and nuts-is well known. But since 2014, that list has been slowly expanding, and now includes a wide variety of products: everything from blackberries and medicinal herbs to cat toys and anchovies. spoke with three entrepreneurs who are finding new markets for the "Made in Georgia" label and the government agency supporting their efforts.

Lika Jorjoliani

A few years ago, Dr. Izolda Kitesashvili, the chief neurologist in the eastern Georgian town of Gurjaani, decided to start farming.

She began with a small plot of land and 50 American Chester blackberry plants, which were provided as part of a UN-supported program at the local college.

Today, her farm is producing 25 tons of small fruit, it employs her entire family-plus 20 additional workers-and she started a company, Gile, to sell her product to supermarkets here and in other former Soviet countries.

The business was so successful that she started to expand, Kitesashvili told

"The cooperative is specializing in the cultivation of blackberries, peaches, and tomatoes. But the most profitable is cultivation of blackberries of this sort. We closely cooperate with the USAID and with its support ... our cooperative has received a grant to procure equipment," she said.

She added that their fruit products are currently sold in Georgia and in post-Soviet countries, and they are looking to expand to the EU market, and plan to export frozen fruit, dry fruits and blackberry tea.

Kitesashvili stressed that there is untapped potential for more blackberry growers in Georgia. She helped establish the Association of Producers of Blackberries, which is planning to create an informational website so other farmers can learn about cultivating and selling blackberries. "Our Association includes more than 100 blackberry producers. One member, an entrepreneur from Kutaisi, has already sent a first lot of blackberries to Kuwait.

But to provide regular supplies, we need large volumes, and all producers must be united," she said.

From Engineer to Medicinal Herbs

Farconi, Ltd was created by an unemployed engineer in Kutaisi in 1995 to ship raspberries and bay leaves to Russia and other post-Soviet countries. Fast-forward 25 years: today his son is exporting medicinal herbs and other Georgian products to Europe.
Giorgi Alpaidze, the founder's son and current director of sales at Farconi, said they upgraded their production to meet EU standards in 2016. Now they are exporting 49 different types of medicinal herbs to Ukraine and Germany, where they are used by pharmaceutical companies. The company is planning to expand so it can sell its herbs to Georgian companies as well.

Currently, over 1,000 farmers sell their goods to Farconi, which has two factories in western Georgia.

"One is located in Kutaisi, and is designed for processing of spices, and the second one-in the village of Zvani, in the Vani District, is designed for the processing of bay leaves ... Both enterprises are located in Imereti (Western Georgia) and employ up to 60 people," he said.

The Association Agreement with the EU was a major turning point for Farconi, Alpaidze said.

"Prior to signing of an agreement on free trade with the EU, it was very difficult to sell our goods to the European market as the customs fee was very high. Today the procedure is more simplified," he said.

The company also exports Georgian spices under the brand name "Khomli," Alpaidze told

"Our main markets for Georgian spices are post-Soviet countries. Recently we sent our first shipment of Georgian spices to China, to Hong Kong," he said, noting they are not selling them on the domestic market right now.

FCO Georgian Products

Inexpensive Loans, Education

Mariam Morgoshia, Head of the state agency "Produce in Georgia," told that the government program is helping Georgian entrepreneurs and producers learn about the benefits and requirements to export Georgian goods to the EU market-and to the other countries that have free trade agreements with Georgia.

"Georgian manufacturers have a great chance to enter into the EU market, which is stable ... The agency increases awareness of the peculiarities of the free-trade regime with the EU. We are working with our entrepreneurs not only in relation to free trade with the U.S., but with China too, and a free mode with Turkey and CIS countries," she told

Morgoshia said the agency provides "microgrants"-worth between 5,000 and 15,000 lari-to small- and medium-sized businesses.

About 8,500 businesses have received grants so far. The funds can be used to finance the start of a business, or to expand an existing enterprise.

The agency also provides assistance to the manufacturing sector: the government provides co-financing for the interest on certain bank loans-10 percent for producers, as well as for companies involved in the hospitality sector.

In addition, if investors plan to invest more than six times the cost of a parcel of government land (four times if the land is in the suburbs), the agency can sell it for the symbolic price of one lari.

Morgoshia noted that the agency has programs to help businesses meet international standards, including manufacturing standards.

"We conduct consultations with Georgian companies to enable them to enter ... the international markets," she said.

The agency also helps Georgian companies register for trading platforms, like "Trade with Georgia" and the European network of entrepreneurs, to help establish themselves as exporters.

"We provide the necessary information and help them reach concrete government entities," she said, adding that the agency continues to support producers by financing 75-80 percent of the cost of joining trade missions, forums and exhibitions overseas.

"Our entrepreneurs have participated in exhibitions conducted in Germany, China and other countries," she said.

So far, "Produce in Georgia" has financed 31 projects, for a total investment of 752 million lari, which includes the agency's assistance with commercial bank loans.

The beneficiaries have employed 12,565 people, Morgoshia said.

Inspire to Produce

David Bardavelidze, a partner of FCO Georgian Products, said he was inspired to start an export business after Georgia signed its free trade agreement with the EU.

The company was one of the first to receive financial support from the government's "Produce in Georgia" program and, since exporting its first products in 2015, it has gone from strength to strength, Bardavelidze said.

Together with their German partners Zoo Plus, they produce and export furniture and food for animals.

"Today our enterprise employs 420 people, with an average monthly salary of up to 800 lari. The products are sold in the EU countries," he said.

"Of course, our European partner, the German company Zoo Plus, played a key role in our entering into the European market. But most remarkable is the "Made in Georgia" tag on the product and the delivery of finished products to the European market."