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Raising the profile of traditional Georgian dairy products

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By Jim Cornall+

Last updated on 11-Jul-2017 at 12:18 GMT2017-07-11T12:18:54Z

Homemade cheese for sale at a market in Kutaisi, Georgia. Pic:©iStock/Radiokukka
Homemade cheese for sale at a market in Kutaisi, Georgia. Pic:©iStock/Radiokukka

Developing and promoting Geographic Indications (GIs) and other origin-based labels for products can help countries preserve their often unique food heritage, while also driving economic growth.

More than 100 participants from Georgia’s dairy sector gathered in the capital, Tbilisi, last week to discuss the benefits, challenges and opportunities of GIs for their businesses and for the country.

The conference, organized by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), together with public authorities, was part of an EBRD/FAO project on developing GIs in Georgia’s dairy industry.

Participants included government representatives, international organizations, producer associations and the private sector, including small-scale cheese producers.

Economic benefits

Globally, GIs bring in roughly €50bn ($57m) a year. Countries have used GIs to boost tourism, create jobs and help small-scale producers obtain premium prices for their products.

GIs can also transform the agrifood sector, making it more efficient, sustainable and inclusive, and reassuring consumers that what they are buying is safe and of high quality.

Victoria Zinchuk, head of agribusiness advisory of EBRD said product quality, safety and traceability are increasingly important for consumers of Georgian products, both locally and internationally.

She said GIs can enable Georgian producers to differentiate their products and win consumers’ trust, which ultimately leads to enhanced profitability and long-term competitiveness.

Control system

Currently, there is no reliable control system in place to protect products from imitations, nor is there awareness of quality labels among producers and consumers.

“Many famous quality food products in Georgia suffer from misuse of their names in both the domestic and export markets,” said Nikoloz Gogilidze, chairman of Sakpatenti, Georgia’s intellectual property office.

“We want to protect these names to allow producers to maximize their value.”

At the event, participants discussed enforcing existing GI legislation in Georgia and strengthening the institutional framework for GIs, particularly in terms of certification and controls.

Sante, the largest dairy processing company in Georgia, and a project partner, relies on fresh raw milk to produce its products.

“Our company was the first to request authorization to use the GI sulguni (a Georgian cheese), because it’s an important cheese that appeals to both domestic and international consumers,” said Erekle Gamkrelidze, director general of Sante.

Bruno Balvanera, EBRD director for Caucasus, Moldova, and Belarus, said the initiative is relevant as it promotes the development of more sustainable value chains in the dairy sector and provides synergy with another FAO/EBRD project aimed at increasing milk production in Georgia.

Moving forward

FAO/EBRD is working with Slow Food International and Origin-Georgia to develop an inventory of traditional Georgian agrifood products and their potential for GI registration.

In collaboration with the Georgian biological farming association Elkana, FAO and EBRD have started studying two pilot GI products – sulguni and Tusheti guda cheeses – and will work with producers to upgrade existing GI specifications in line with modern production techniques. Tenili cheese producers will also receive support.

The team will train and support producer organizations in marketing and certification, and promote best practices for new dairy product registration in Georgia.

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