“We knew what hard work was, since we were kids. We would help our father on his plot in rain, snow or summer heat, that’s just a part of working your land,” says Vano Kakashvili, 35-year-old saplings producer from Skra village in Eastern Georgia.
Gori municipality, where the village and the nursery are located, is famous for its fruit production in Georgia. Apples, peaches, pears and many more. Vano’s nursery, continuing the traditions of the Kakashvili family, produces fruit tree saplings of several crops, but mainly almond tree saplings, recently booming sector of the agriculture in Georgia. According to Vano, it is extremely important to observe trends and the demand of the farmers on the agricultural market; the producers are trying new cultures and the nursery should follow the demand.
Vano’s Nergebi – Vano’s saplings, as the producer named his company, started its operations back in 2010, turning low-efficiency small-scale operation, producing a hundred saplings per season, to a large-scale facility with hundreds of thousands of saplings for sale.
“Me and my brother picked up where our grandpa and our father left, they had a small production, I would call it an amateur nursery, I wanted to make something bigger and more productive,” says Vano, introducing his brother, Alexander, who works in the family business as well.
Kakashvili brothers say that quality of the saplings is of the utmost importance for the business. That’s where Vano can apply his education – first he attended agronomy school in Georgia’s capital Tbilisi, moving to Germany and continuing his education there.
“Georgian agricultural production still has a long way to reach the standards of, for example, German agriculture, but someone needs to start this process and our family decided to start it here, on our plot,” Vano states.
As a result of the Georgia’s Association Agreement with the EU, Georgian saplings producers are subject to comply with European quality production standards, starting from 2024. These new requirements will also regulate import and export, as well as provide legal stability to the sapling sector, particularly in the form of helping to prevent the import or local production of bad quality saplings.
Vano’s nursery is one of the first sapling producers in the country that has decided not to wait till 2024, but to start applying the European quality standards before it becomes mandatory.
“It’s not easy – the new standards concern everything, from the thorough examination of the plants for pests and diseases to the distance between the saplings in the ground, but it’s all worth it, we can guarantee our quality to the customers all around Georgia and maybe even further,” says Lekso, Vano’s brother and partner in business.
Vano, himself thinks that the new standards can dramatically improve the situation with fruit production in Georgia. “I can frankly say that most of the imported saplings to Georgia are of a bad quality, which results in poor quality production. That’s why it is so important to have high quality nurseries here, in Georgia, to reduce the dependence on imported saplings and offer the best to our agricultural producers,” he says.
To facilitate the transition process, the Kakashvili family decided to join Georgian Seeds and Saplings Association (GEOSSA), an organization uniting seeds and sapling producers from all over Georgia, founded in 2021 with EU and FAO support, under the project – EU Innovative Action for Private Sector Competitiveness in Georgia. The goal of the organization is to boost the production of high-quality seeds and planting material in Georgia and to comply with the upcoming certification system aligned to the international standards.
“I am an agronomist, so was my father, but there is never a limit to what you can learn and the access to international expertise through GEOSSA and FAO is very important for improving the quality of our facility,” Vano states. Apart from the technical expertise, in 2021 FAO supported this nursery by providing pome fruits rootstocks.
“EU and FAO , under this project, support nurseries like Vano’s Nergebi, in the difficult task to get quality certified saplings. Farmers need to be sure that the saplings they buy are of the right variety and are healthy. We will keep supporting responsible nurseries to improve the way they work so they can provide a better product to the Georgian farmers”, Javier Sanz Alvarez, FAO Coordinator explained.
The business never lacks challenges, and Vano’s Nergebi as well as most Georgian agricultural producers had to overcome difficulties introduced by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The sales dropped, restrictions on transportation and trade, made it harder to find workers or deliver production, many producers lacked financial capabilities to maintain their production, let alone expand and buy more saplings. The pandemic didn’t stop the Kakashvili family to work on improving their production.
“There is not any other way – the quality of the production should grow, it’s even more important during the pandemic, when people buy less, they want proven and guaranteed product and we can provide that,’’ Vano says.