The initiative is designed to build capacity in the sector to make it more efficient and attractive for investors. The ultimate objective is improving the quality and safety of Georgian dairy products.
The country’s first National Dairy Congress, co-organized by the EBRD and FAO, was held earlier this month in Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi. Participants included commercial dairy farmers, processors, equipment suppliers, industry experts and representatives from the Georgian government.
The event served to promote Georgia's commercial dairy farming, and share knowledge about technology and food safety practices.
Moving closer to EU
Food safety is of particular importance for Georgia, as it joined the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area with the European Union in 2014, and is working to align its food safety legislation with that of the European Union.
According to a study commissioned by FAO and the EBRD, Georgia’s dairy sector is dominated by small producers using obsolete technology, and with very low productivity and poor hygiene standards.
The study also suggests that simple improvements, such as better feed and fodder production, improved animal health, welfare and farm management as well as hygienic milk-handling could improve the productivity of dairy milk farming by up to 35%.
"Georgia has an excellent investment climate, ideal agro-climatic conditions for dairy farming and strong demand for milk, cheese and other dairy products," said Victoria Zinchuk, associate director of the EBRD agribusiness team.
Training program planned
Andriy Yarmak, an FAO agricultural economist, said, "Only about 5% of the milk consumed in Georgia is sold to commercial dairy processors. In the European Union, Georgia's most important trading partner, it's nearly 100%."
The FAO and EBRD plan to launch a modular training program for Georgia’s commercial dairy farmers and will publish a practical manual on modern dairy farming, to be used by stakeholders and educational institutions.
Mamuka Meskhi, assistant representative of the FAO in Georgia, said, “Improvements in the safety and quality of Georgian dairy products would encourage new investments in the sector. This, in turn, would lead to creating new jobs and improving livelihoods in the long term.”
Since the start of its operations in the country, the EBRD has invested over $2.96bn (€2.66bn) in 188 projects in the country’s financial, corporate, infrastructure and energy sectors, with 88% in the private sector.