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On 21 September the presidential candidate of the European Democrats of Georgia Zurab Kharatishvili met with the Azerbaijani population of the village of Nakhiduri in the Bolnisi Region and discussed his presidential programme. He declared that more than 600 households in the village have not received any agricultural cards. Kharatishvili added that agriculture would be his priority within his presidential programme.

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decided to investigate the truthfulness of this statement.

According to the website of the Ministry of Agriculture of Georgia, the Supporting Land-Poor Farmers’ Spring Agricultural Work Programme started on 15 February 2013. Within its framework, the distribution of agricultural cards began in the Kvemo Kartli Region and would cover other regions as well. The Programme beneficiaries are farmers possessing up to 5 ha of agricultural land. Within the framework of the Programme a total of 710,385 farmers were categorised according to their land area and designation. The farmers owning less than 0.25 ha of agricultural land and without any chance of using agricultural equipment due to the small size of their land were compiled in one group and received nominal agricultural cards of GEL 100 for purchasing agricultural inventory and equipment. A second and the largest group includes those farmers possessing agricultural land of 0.25-1.25 ha who received combined cards comprising two components: soil tillage and soil loosening, and nominal agricultural cards of GEL 300 for purchasing agricultural inventory (for 1 ha). Farmers owning land that has been cultivated consecutively for several years received nominal cards of GEL 510 for 1 ha of land. Owners of 1.25-5 ha of agricultural land received cards worth GEL 640.

The Minister of Agriculture, Shalva Pipia, summarised the abovementioned Programme on 24 June in the village of Variani. As he stated, a total of 710,000 beneficiaries have received agricultural cards; a total of 192,568 ha of land was cultivated and farmers having small areas of agricultural land received various chemical aids (fertilisers, pesticides, etc.). Overall, more than GEL 195 million was spent within the framework of the Programme.

According to Zurab Kharatishvili, the Azerbaijani population of the Bolnisi Region was particularly unsatisfied with this Programme as more than 600 families have not received any agricultural cards. For further clarifications we addressed the Ministry of Agriculture as well as the Bolnisi Municipality and obtained public information about the distribution policy of the agricultural cards.

According to the information obtained from the Ministry of Agriculture, the Supporting Land-Poor Farmers’ Spring Agricultural Work Programme aimed at distributing agricultural cards to 14,889 beneficiaries from the Bolnisi Region; however, the Ministry was not able to retrieve any information concerning 247 beneficiaries. Therefore, a total of 14,642 beneficiaries received the abovementioned cards. The Supporting Land-Poor Farmers’ Spring Agricultural Work Programme has finished and so farmers who were not able to get on the list of beneficiaries have been removed from the Programme.

As the Ministry of Agriculture reported, it distributed official reminders in November 2012 to the chairs of municipality councils and governors throughout Georgia with the request to submit the relevant information on the total agricultural area and the number of beneficiaries in each district by 10 December 2012. In January 2013 the data entry was finished and an electronic database was set up; the data was later corrected and further specifications were added to the database. The Ministry of Agriculture sent the entire electronic data to the municipalities for verification of the personal data of the Programme’s beneficiaries. The specified data retrieved from the municipalities was afterwards forwarded to the Public Service Development Agency of the Ministry of Justice of Georgia for further verification of the beneficiaries’ personal data. At the same time, the municipalities collected an additional list of those beneficiaries who were not included in the main list for various reasons (entered with wrong ID number or wrong name/surname, prisoner, deceased, foreign citizen, already held agricultural card, owned agricultural land of more than 5 ha, etc.). The Public Service Development Agency verified the data several times. It was not possible to print additional cards for those beneficiaries experiencing problems with the data registration owing to the expiration of the start-up period.

We also contacted Zurab Kharatishvili in this regard. According to his information, about 1,200 households comprise the village of Nakhiduri in the Bolnisi Region. Village residents declared that more than 600 families did not get any cards while part of them received the cards but could not cash them. As Kharatishvili told us, he has no information about why these particular people did not receive any cards.

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addressed the Governor of the Bolnisi Municipality, Alexandra Oboladze. According to the Governor, 2,781 households make up the village of Nakhiduri. Within the framework of the Supporting Land-Poor Farmers’ Spring Agricultural Work Programme, a total of 1,954 families received the agricultural cards. She reported that an investigation is being conducted in order to determine the truth about the abovementioned facts; however, some of the residents have moved from their places that might also cause the inaccuracy of the list.

Conclusion

The statement of the presidential candidate of the European Democrats of Georgia, Zurab Kharatishvili, about more than 600 households not receiving any agricultural cards is true. Our research revealed that both the Ministry of Agriculture and the Governor of the Bolnisi Municipality confirm the discrepancies in the beneficiary lists of the Supporting Land-Poor Farmers’ Spring Agricultural Work Programme.

According to the statistical data obtained from the Ministry of Agriculture the number of the Programme’s beneficiaries that should have but did not receive any cards totals 247. The Governor of the Bolnisi Region stated that about 827 beneficiaries were left without cards in the village of Nakhiduri with the incident currently being investigated. Therefore, we conclude that the statement of Zurab Kharatishvili about more than 600 households not receiving any agricultural cards is TRUE.

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