Greenhouses Get a Boost in Georgia

USAID’s Economic Prosperity Initiative (EPI) Project helped Georgian vegetable growers to acquire necessary skills to operate gr
USAID’s Economic Prosperity Initiative helped Georgian vegetable growers get the skills necessary to operate greenhouses and offset imports.
Growing more vegetables locally means less need for imports
"I increased my yields by 42 percent the very first season after trying the recommendations."

Rich natural resources enable Georgia to produce high-quality vegetables, yet Georgians have long depended on imports from neighboring countries, especially during the off-season. The country's 2010 off-season tomato and cucumber crops were enough to cover only about 3 percent of local consumption, while the rest was imported.

To increase Georgia’s vegetable yields and offset imports, USAID has strengthened Georgia’s greenhouse vegetable production. The country's farmers have long struggled with greenhouse operation and vegetable cultivation during the winter season. Despite a significant price premium for vegetables in the off-season, crop yields were not sufficient to give operators and investors the required rate of return. In response, USAID started providing technical assistance on technology, managerial practices and modern agricultural techniques.

Through its Economic Prosperity Initiative, USAID established a Knowledge Center and developed a training program on greenhouse management, training 150 representatives from 52 greenhouse operators, educational institutions, investors and other interested parties from 2011-2013. Almost all of the trainees adopted the new technology.

USAID also provided financial tools to effectively estimate and prepare for setting up a greenhouse operation, and then budget and control management and operating costs. By training faculty and students, USAID prepared Georgia’s Agrarian University to oversee the training program, thereby ensuring the program’s long-term sustainability.

The direct benefits of the greenhouse training are already evident. In two years, the heated greenhouse area in Georgia has almost quadrupled, and over $16 million has been invested in the sector from both the private sector and USAID. The average greenhouse crop yields over the same period also grew significantly. This combination of increased greenhouse area and increased yields is providing more than a six-fold increase in winter production of tomatoes and cucumbers, which is expected to replace 25 percent of imports in 2014.

Soon, Georgia’s greenhouse sector will be able to meet the domestic demand in vegetables and effectively compete in the domestic markets, while also preparing Georgia to enter and sustain its market share in foreign markets.

Edisher Sanikidze is a greenhouse operator who constructed his first greenhouse in 2011. “Shortly after construction, I started to attend USAID's greenhouse management best practices training sessions. I increased my yields by 42 percent the very first season after trying the recommendations,” he says.

In December 2012, USAID held the Third Greenhouse Producers Forum to share views and best practices, and provide networking and partnership opportunities. At the forum, Sanikidze's greenhouse was named best greenhouse in operation for 2012-2013.

The Economic Prosperity Initiative, launched in 2010, is a four-year program designed to improve competitiveness in Georgia’s agricultural, manufacturing and service sectors through increased employment, productivity, exports, access to finance, and domestic and foreign investment.