19 November, 2019
Linking people, places and products: celebrating Georgia’s rich food heritage
· Georgian producers, processors and public authorities weigh in on benefits and opportunities of geographically-protected foods
· Wide swathe of Georgians now trained on food safety and quality, certification and marketing of GI-protected foods
· Georgia looks to new opportunities to celebrate food heritage, including in agritourism
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) are boosting sustainable growth and development in Georgia’s rural areas by protecting and promoting the country’s traditional products.
Georgia’s rich cultural heritage and natural beauty are matched by a wealth of unique foods and wines. Supported by FAO and EBRD, the country has taken steps to protect such products – like its famous sulguni and Tushetian guda cheeses – by developing geographical indications (GIs) and other origin-linked labels.
Over the last two years, the two institutions have worked closely with Georgia’s Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture and Sakpatenti, the national intellectual property office, with support from the Georgian Biological Farming Association ‘Elkana’ and REDD.
FAO and EBRD have also supported Elkana and producers of sulguni and Tushetian guda cheeses, both small and large, to upgrade existing GI specifications in line with modern production techniques.
They provided extensive training on improving quality and food safety, establishing internal control and certification systems, strengthening producer associations and developing marketing strategies.
Government authorities, producers, retailers and other relevant stakeholders gathered in Tbilisi today to take stock of achievements, share lessons and discuss opportunities for moving forward with a full-fledged GI strategy in Georgia. The conference was organized by FAO and EBRD.
During the conference, panellists, including members of the Tushetian guda and sulguni producer associations and Sante, Georgia’s largest dairy processing company, weighed in on the benefits of GIs.
GIs are the product of a common vision and collective action and have carved out an interesting corner in the market, catering to consumers who value quality, tradition and authenticity. Globally, GIs bring in roughly EUR 50 billion a year in trade.
Successful GIs can help preserve a country’s food traditions and unique biodiversity. They can also secure higher prices for producers and make agrifood systems more efficient and inclusive by linking small-scale producers with larger companies.
Panellists addressed the importance of partnerships and of creating a sound legal and institutional system for GI development, noting the ongoing work on Georgia’s new draft law on GIs.
They acknowledged how GIs can drive sustainable growth and development in Georgia’s rural areas, opening up new opportunities, including in tourism, that celebrate the country’s rich food heritage.
Such development can give local producers even more incentive to protect an area’s natural resources, biodiversity, including rangelands and local livestock breeds, and traditional know-how that makes the local foods so special.
Tushetian guda cheese, for example, gets its unique flavour from the milk of the native cows and sheep that graze on the region’s mountain grasses combined with a centuries-old method of ripening.
The conference screened a new video on Georgian GIs and their links to Georgian heritage and biodiversity and exhibited photos from the recent FAO-National Geographic #YourShot campaign.
Participants also sampled some of Georgia’s GI-protected delicacies, including sulguni and Tushetian guda cheeses.
By linking people, places and products, GIs are helping to keep Georgia’s food traditions alive and well.
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