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Otar Shamugia: “Since 2019, we have boosted hazelnut yield and export – revenues from hazelnut export in 2021 amounted to USD 115 million.”

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

Resume: According to the statistical data, both the hazelnut yield and export have been growing since 2019. Revenues from hazelnut export in 2021 amounted to USD 118 million. Therefore, the Minister’s statement is true.

However, the statistics of the first nine months of 2022 illustrate that hazelnut export shrank by 15% as compared to the previous year according to the data of the first three quarters of 2022. As explained by specialists, this was mostly attributable to the degradation of the quality of Georgian hazelnuts as well as the surplus hazelnut yield in the world which precipitated a drop in the demand for Georgian hazelnuts. The Minister himself also emphasised the decreased export of hazelnuts in his statement.

Given the aforementioned factors, FactCheck concludes that Otar Shamugia’s statement is TRUE.

Analysis

The Minister of Environmental Protection and Agriculture, Otar Shamugia, informed the journalists about new support programme for hazelnut production and emphasised hazelnut yield in this context: “Since 2019, we gradually boosted yield and export. In 2021, revenues from hazelnuts export amounted to USD 115 million. However, of note is that owing to different factors in 2022 – mostly climatic conditions – farmers were unable to properly take care of crops and as a result, yield decreased as well as quality deteriorated. Given the drop in export values and general reduction in demand, farmers were unable to earn proper revenues.”

According to the data of the National Statistics Office of Georgia, some 46,000 tonnes of hazelnuts were produced in 2021. In 2019, thee total hazelnut yield was 24,000 tonnes and it was also the same in 2020. Therefore, there is a trend of an increased hazelnut output from 2019. Consequently, the first part of the Minister’s statement is true.

Graph 1: Hazelnut Production (Thousand Tonnes)

Source: National Statistics Office of Georgia

In regard to hazelnut export, some 25,000 tonnes of hazelnuts valued at USD 118 million were exported in 2021. The biggest export markets of Georgian hazelnuts were Italy (USD 32 million), Germany (USD 27 million), France (USD 3 million) and the Czech Republic (USD 4 million), etc.

The export statistics of the last few years are as follows:

Table 1: Hazelnut Export (USD Million, Tonnes)

Source: Foreign Trade Portal

According to hazelnut export statistics, hazelnut export has been decreasing since 2016. Since 2019, there has been a clear growth trend, although export figures still have not returned to 2016’s level. Therefore, the second part of the Minister’s statement is also true.

In January-September 2022, a total of 13,000 tonnes of hazelnuts valued at USD 60 million were exported abroad. The same figure for the previous year was USD 69 million (13,900 tonnes). Therefore, exports decreased by 15% in the first nine months of 2022 as compared to the previous year. In the same period, hazelnuts valued at USD 14 million and USD 13 million were exported to Italy and Germany, respectively.

As the Minister stated in his statement, the hazelnut yield and the quality this year has decreased due to a number of factors (climate conditions) which lead to the shrinking hazelnut export.

FactCheck reached out to Levan Kardava, the Head of Georgian Hazelnut Processors and Exporters Association.

According to Mr Kardava’s statement: “The hazelnut yield this year is 30% as compared to the previous year’s 35-40%. The reason behind this is that during the active phase of the fight against the Asian stink bug – for nearly two months – there were incessant rains which rendered this process ineffective. In addition, inflation spurred a price hike on chemicals and farmers could not apply the spray to their hazelnuts which resulted in a degraded quality. On top of that, there is a surplus yield of hazelnuts in the world which eventually led to a reduced demand for Georgian hazelnuts.”

In order to offer compensations for the situation in hazelnut production, the government announced a hazelnut subsidy programme. At the first stage, the programme’s budget will be GEL 20 million. For farmers who own hazelnut land plots from 0.2 to 3 hectares, they will be given GEL 500 assistance per hectare in the form of agro-cards which will be used to purchase various goods needed to take care of hazelnut crops.

Given the aforementioned circumstances, FactCheck concludes that Otar Shamugia’s statement is TRUE.


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