Christmas Tree Seeds Now Main Export Product from Georgia

Cities around the country are getting ready for the New Year and Christmas celebrations (remember, they do it the other way round here, celebrating New Year on December 31st and Orthodox Christmas later, on January 7th) – with a multitude of new lighting being strung across the main streets and squares in Tbilisi. And while we anticipate the flicking of the switch which will declare the festive season truly open, let us recall the fact that today one of the main symbols of this wonderful holiday actually comes from Georgia. According to the latest studies, over 80% of Christmas trees in Europe originate from the northern Georgian region of Racha.

Individuals, from Racha have been selling seeds of the top fir – the Caucasian Fir, also known as the Nordmann Fir, Since the 1990s. According to specialists, it is the most beautiful shaped fir and comes with the bonus of needles which don’t drop. Today, seed sales have become a huge business and many foreign investors are already involved or interested in it. About 22 companies have a license to gather seeds in Racha and approximately 300 tons of seeds are exported annually, making it the most exported product from Georgia.

Fair Trees Company, one of those licensed companies, sold 95 thousand Christmas trees throughout Europe in 2014 and, as of going to print, they have already sold over 113 thousand trees this year. Marianne Bols, founder of Fair Trees, highlighted that this is a great achievement because the season has only just started. A novelty this year saw the Company launching an online shop in Germany and establishing a partnership with Ikea Denmark, which is known as the biggest seller of Christmas Trees worldwide, meaning that, from this year onwards, Ikea Denmark will be selling the Fair Trees’ Christmas trees.

Bols also mentioned that there are many opportunities and prospects to develop this business and the main reason for this is the quality of the trees. “The basic position of Fair Trees is to make an organic product. Caucasian Firs also grow in Russia and Turkey but the quality is completely different. The land in Georgia has not been ruined by industry, so here you can find great conditions not only for growing trees, but for growing other organic products as well. And for our company it is highly important to gather seeds specifically from Racha,” Bols says.

Since the foundation of Fair Trees in 2007, the seeds of Caucasian Firs have been collected in the forests of Racha annually and then exported to Denmark, where they spend nine years being grown into Christmas trees. Adult trees re sold not only in Denmark and Germany, but also in the UK, the Netherlands, Portugal and many other European countries. According to Bols, he Caucasian Fir has a unique characteristic to grow anywhere, and Fair Trees is open to cooperating with other companies which want to grow their own Christmas trees. The company is ready to sell seeds but to do so the buying companies must follow strict rules of growing, only after which can they sell trees under the Fair Trees brand.

“We have an idea to plant these seeds in Georgia as well. We are already trying to do it, though it requires some improvements and needs certain technologies,” said Bols.

The price of Christmas trees varies greatly, and as such Ms Bols cannot name an average price in the market. “The price depends on many factors – the size is always the most critical. Prices start at around 17 Euros. However, it should be noted that our trees cost 1,25 Euros more than other companies’ trees, with 0,60 Euro from this difference going to the Fair Trees Foundation,” she explained.

Racha is one of the poorest regions in Georgia; emigration rate here is 10%, significantly higher than the national average. At the same time, it has very rich nature and great ecotourism potential. To support the region’s development, Marianne Bols launched the Fair Trees Foundation.

According to Fair Trees project manager Zhana Babunashvili, the Foundation has three priorities: education, health care and environment protection. At the close of 2015, they have funded six student grants, set up a mobile dentist and took five children to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Camp in Wulfsburg in Germany. “After this camp we are going to create Eco clubs and raise awareness among children and the Georgian population about nature protection. They should understand the importance of preserving the environment, especially in a region like Racha, where, only thanks to the clean and organic soils, can the best fir seeds in the world grow,” Babunashvili noted.

Eka Karsaulidze

08 December 2015 10:30