Nuts.ge is one of the largest hazelnut producing companies in Georgia, which exports locally produced hazelnuts in various forms worldwide. The company delivers 2,000 tonnes of finished hazelnut products to world-famous brands, chocolate and ice cream industries, bakers, and distributors annually.
Nuts occupy one of the leading positions in the largest export commodity group of Georgia and have crucial importance for the economy. It’s one of the reasons why Nuts.ge has become one of the companies to receive support from EU4Business implemented by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) programme – Advice for Small Businesses. With EU4Business and EBRD support, the company was able to bring its production in line with EU directives.
Towards a higher standard
Mamuka Beriashvili, director of Nuts.ge, says that the most difficult task for companies is to meet international standards and establish themselves in a highly competitive environment, and admits the joint support of EU4Business and the EBRD has made a significant contribution to the development of the company.
"It is necessary for the business to think about constant development. With the assistance of EU4Business and the EBRD, with the involvement of local and international consultants, we were able to improve the production package: adapting the financial and accounting records to international standards, introducing an automated management system, conducting consulting work that evaluates the current situation, and providing a future development plan. This is a complete chain of how the company should grow, because without meeting the relevant standards, the product will not have access to international markets," explains Beriashvili.
As Beriashvili tells it, he has been involved in the hazelnut business since 2007, right from when the nut sector started to develop in Georgia. As such, Nuts.ge has a long history. Because Samegrelo is considered the main region for hazelnut production in the country, the enterprise has been working in Zugdidi since 2012. But the group also operates in the Kakheti region, found in eastern Georgia. Today, Nuts.ge is a member of the International Nuts and Dried Fruits Association. Small and medium farmers, collectors, as well as companies that supply Nut.ge with semi-finished raw products are involved in the company’s work.
"If hazelnut production in Georgia is successful, then all the actors who play a part will have an opportunity to develop further, and we have more than 1,000 suppliers in total. The economic situation of many enterprises depends on development of the nut sector, so we are trying to raise the standards and meet all international requirements," says Beriashvili.
The company struggled severely because of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the director of Nuts.ge, they had to reduce the number of on-site employees by half, which directly affected the production process.
"To comply with regulations, which required a distance of two metres between employees, we had to reduce the existing workforce, leaving only 30 people on site. It was practically impossible to transport from region to region and from village to village because of travel restrictions and lack of transport. Entrepreneurs wanted to sell their raw materials but could not deliver their products. Despite this difficult situation, the company, with the help of EU4Business, wrote up a strategy on how to develop the business and lead production. As such, Nuts.ge was able to continue working with minimal financial damage,” says Beriashvili.
Employment as a priority
Zema Gergedava is one of the employees at Nuts.ge, who has been able to continue to work in the company despite the pandemic. Gergedava has been working in the hazelnut factory for five years, almost since it first started operating, which is something indeed, as she admits there are not many jobs in the region and employment is particularly a challenge for women.
"I had never worked before; I was involved in housework mainly. Since the factory opened, jobs have emerged for residents in the region, and this is very important for the families living here. You no longer have to look for a source of income outside of the city and you can stay where you live,” says Gergedava.
Irakli Shamatava is another employee of Nuts.ge, who has been working for the company since the day of its creation. Shamatava is a local resident of Zugdidi, and notes that the work of an enterprise like Nuts.ge is very important for the region and its people.
"The company is constantly adding new workers and expanding. In addition to employing people in the enterprise, Nuts.ge promotes the development of the nut sector in the region by collecting nuts from local farms, which is a source of income for many people. The development of the hazelnut business directly affects the economic situation of many locals and their families," says Shamatava.
At this stage, due to the pandemic, the company continues to operate with anywhere from 70 to 120 employees, in addition to the number of seasonal workers. It exports 1,000 tonnes of hazelnuts and covers almost all countries of the world – the export number for Europe is 38%, 24% in China, 22% in Russia, 5% in Africa, 9% in the Middle East, and 2% in other countries.
The original story is available on EU NEIGHBOURS east website: https://euneighbourseast.eu/news-and-stories/stories/from-farm-to-international-market-supporting-hazelnut-production-in-georgia/