Georgia is the world’s fourth-largest producer of hazelnuts. Production of the popular nut—one of that nation’s leading agricultural exports—supports the livelihoods of more than 50,000 Georgian growers and processors.
Unfortunately, inadequate post-harvest handling services and outdated Husking, Drying, and Storage (HDS) facilities have hindered many smallholder Georgian farmers from producing crops of consistently high quality—resulting in crop losses, lower prices and reduced profitability.
But now a new hazelnut HDS facility is helping to turn that situation around for one hazelnut-growing community. The facility, established with the help of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through its Georgia Hazelnut Improvement Project (G-HIP), opened its doors in September 2019 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by USAID Mission Director Peter Wiebler, local farmers and partners.
The new hazelnut facility—located in the Koki village, Zugdidi Municipality, Samegrelo Region, and owned and operated by Koki 2014 LLC—is designed to offer farmers husking, drying and storage services that will help them better process their crops and improve product quality in order to boost revenues and expand market access.
The project is part of efforts spearheaded by G-HIP’s Global Development Alliance (GDA), a coalition of USAID, Ferrero and Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA) which leverages the partners’ technical and financial resources to advance development of the hazelnut industry.
Koki—which contributed $210,509 of its own cash to cover construction of the HDS facility, as well as expenses for new staff salaries, laboratory tools and marketing—used a $50,000 USAID/G-HIP grant to procure drying silos, heated air blowers, fans and a storage electric pallet stacker to outfit the new 800-square-meter HDS facility, which is expected to employ 17 individuals and serve approximately 300 local farmers. The $50,000 USAID/G-HIP grant was co-financed equally through the Agricultural and Rural Development Agency under the Georgian Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture, and AgriGeorgia/Ferrero for a total project cost of $260,509.
The facility will be capable of drying up to 1,000 tons of hazelnuts per year. With an estimated value of $1,800 per ton, this represents $1.8 million in potential revenue to improve the income and livelihoods of local hazelnut farmers and the 900 members of their families.
Improving the Georgian hazelnut sector’s post-harvest handling through new husking, drying and storing facilities represents just one part of G-HIP’s overall program objectives. Over the next year, G-HIP will also continue to provide training and technical assistance alongside the Georgian Hazelnut Growers’ Association and the Hazelnut Exporters and Processors Association, with the aim of further strengthening capacity, facilitating market linkages and improving growers’ knowledge of market requirements. G-HIP along with AgriGeorgia/Ferrero, will also support the establishment of a certification course in hazelnut cultivation and postharvest handling.