Georgians Taste Britain in Vake Park

For some passersby, the Taste Britain food fair that took place on Thursday morning in Vake Park was a great chance for some to try Welsh specialities such as laverbread (seaweed for breakfast) and berry liquour, as well as the typical fish and chips.

But there is much more to it: the event in Tbilisi is just one leg of the circuit that representatives of the Food Technology Center (FTC) in Wales are taking across Georgia. Indeed, both Wales and Georgia share the fact that a large proportion of their population works in the agro sector (30% the former, 50% the latter). The FTC is an initiative funded by the EU and the Welsh government, among others, in order to enable food businesses to access technical support, practical solutions, advice and guidance on areas which are key to business growth. One of the aims of this visit is to set up links between Welsh and Georgian farmers in order to promote trade between them.

According to Anna Butchart, Political Officer at the British Embassy in Tbilisi, the signing of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with the EU will open huge possibilities for Georgian farmers and the Georgian Government is working hard to implement the legislative changes and processes required to bring Georgian food production into line with EU food safety standards which will facilitate increased future trade. 

But the team of the FTC also aims at helping Georgian farmers make their products more sellable. Successful stories of how the FTC helped Welsh farmers abound. Take the case of Hazel, a farmer with tones of berries growing in her lands. They were not sweet enough to sell and at the FTC they suggested several choices, like for example, making a liquor with them, or make chocolate bars with berries. The idea worked out and her once-useless berries are now the main ingredient of a flourishing business.

“The idea is to develop produce into a product with added value; to create original and successful businesses from basic products”, Butchart said. The possibilities of Georgian farmers developing special and original products are endless, as endless are the possibilities for collaboration: for example, what if a farmer producing blueberries could establish a partnership with a muffin manufacturer in the UK?

Despite the challenges ahead, mainly the lack of expertise and financing, there is room for optimism. Martin Jardine, FTC Manager, told Georgia Today that this visit was a first contact in which they were impressed by the quality of the Georgian products and the enthusiasm of the farmers. The aim is to develop a long term relationship, like the FTC did with Egypt, India or Tunisia.

The relationship between the FTC and Georgia has just begun. On Friday another step will be taken when the Center’s representatives visit Kakheti.

04 June 2015 20:00