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Otar Shamugia: “Revenues from hazelnut exports in 2021 exceeded USD 115 million.”

Verdict: FactCheck concludes that Otar Shamugia’s statement is TRUE.

Resume: According to the Foreign Trade Portal, the total value of hazelnuts exported in 2021 was USD 118 million, equalling 25,000 tonnes. The top export destinations of Georgian hazelnuts were Italy, Germany and France. Therefore, the statement of the Minister of Agriculture and Environmental Protection is true.

Of necessary note is that the reduction of both hazelnut production and export in recent years was directly attributable to the spread of the Asian stink bug in Georgia. Measures taken against the Asian stink bug (thermal and cold fogging of agricultural land plots and arable lands as well as the installation of pheromones) were effective in cutting the number of stink bugs which in turn resulted in a growth of crops and the quality of the hazelnuts. All of these stipulated bigger volumes of hazelnut exports as compared to the previous years.

Therefore, FactCheck concludes that Otar Shamugia’s statement is TRUE.

Analysis

The Minister of Agriculture and Environmental Protection of Georgia, Otar Shamugia, during his speech before the Parliament of Georgia as part of Minister’s Hour hearing, highlighted increased exports of hazelnuts among other things and stated: “Revenues from hazelnut exports in 2021 exceeded USD 115 million. The biggest portion of hazelnuts were exported to mostly EU countries such as Italy, Germany, the Czech Republic and France.”

In 2021, there were 45,900 tonnes of hazelnuts produced in Georgia which is the highest figure since 2006. In the past several years, the lowest hazelnut crop was registered in 2017-2018 which was attributable to the infestation of western Georgia with the Asian stink bug. Graph 1 shows statistical data of hazelnut production.

Graph 1: Hazelnut Production in 2006-2021 (Thousand Tonnes)

Source: National Statistics Office of Georgia

In regard to the export of hazelnuts, there were 25,000 tonnes of hazelnuts exported in 2021 with a total value of USD 118 million according to the Foreign Trade Portal data.

Georgian hazelnuts were exported to 30 countries. The biggest export destination was Italy – 26.7% (USD 31.5 million) followed by Germany – 22.5% (USD 26.6 million), Armenia – 6.7% (USD 8 million), the Czech Republic – 3.4% (USD 4 million), Belarus – 3.1% (USD 3.7 million) and France – 2.7% (USD 3.2 million). Therefore, EU countries were indeed the major export destinations for Georgian hazelnuts. Hazelnut export statistics for the last years are as follows:

Graph 2: Export of Hazelnuts (USD Million)

Source: National Statistics Office of Georgia

As illustrated by these figures, the biggest volume of hazelnuts was exported in 2014 whilst there is a clear tendency of a decrease from 2017 to 2020 and hazelnut exports initially halved and later shrank by 2.7 times by 2019. As mentioned earlier, this was stipulated by the damage that the Asian stink bug inflicted to hazelnut crops. Export of hazelnuts increased in 2020 and this trend was also kept in the last year which is a result of the successful fight against the Asian stink bug which decreased the number of this malicious pest and, therefore, contributed to the increased output and the quality of the hazelnut crops.

Of additional note is that measures against the Asian stink bug were carried out across 33 Georgian municipalities in line with the government’s programme. As a part of these efforts, 6,000 pheromone traps and 43,260 pheromones were installed and an area of 186,00 hectares was treated with thermal and cold fogging. This caused a shrinking of Asian stink bug numbers and its area of spread did not expand further.

According to the official information of Georgia’s National Food Agency, given the global practice of fighting against the Asian stink bug, it is impossible to completely eliminate this invasive pest. However, it is possible to manage and control its population which will ensure the protection of agricultural crops and keeping losses of harvests within the margins of 5-15%. It is only with the joint efforts of the government, farmers and the population that the Asian stink bug can be controlled and kept at the lowest level (reducing the damage of agricultural and forest crops as well as economic harm).


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