Food independence is a state necessity

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Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University Press
Georgia has long been regarded as one of the exemplary countries in the production and consumption of wheat. To date, in the world there are listed and registered 23 cultural and 4 wild species in the wheat botanical genus. Of these, 14 cultural species of them are presented in Georgia. In the world there has been observed a steady decline in grain production and prices over the past two decades: the international price of 1 ton of wheat has increased from $80.4 to $173.4 in the last four decades. The era of cheap food in the world is over. Therefore, grain as a strategic commodity is not only a key guarantee of economic independence for each country, but also a powerful tool for political influence on grain importing countries. Due to the current situation, countries with relevant land resources, based on the generally recognized principles of food self-sufficiency, make every eff ort to develop grain farming on the ground, regardless of whether they have a comparative or an absolute advantage. Georgia, as a grain-producing country, sharply lost ground in the last 50 years: according to per capita estimates, the indicators in 2018 for wheat production are 7.8 times lower than the indicators of 1950. Its production capacity is only 107.1 thousand tons. The country needs 1500-1700 thousand tons of grain annually, of which 780 thousand tons should be used for food. According to the bread and bakery products, this volume is 680-690 thousand tons, for which 525-530 thousand tons of flour is required. From this, 120-140 thousand tons of fl our can be obtained from locally produced wheat (140-150 thousand tons on average, depending on commodity wheat production). The rest should be provided by import. According to scientists and specialists, the transformation of agricultural land allows to increase the crop area in Georgia by 150 thousand hectares, or to 350 thousand hectares. Such a structural transformation of arable land allows for the production of 1.0-1.1 million tons of grain in the medium term which is sufficient for the country’s food supply (according to the sufficiency ratio). Own wheat can be produced within 60-65% of the country’s demand. Calculations based on technological maps of I. Lomouri Agricultural Research Institute and Enterprise Association “Lomtagora” show that the cost of 1 ton of wheat produced in Georgia will be $ 25-30 less than imported. Economic calculations showed that by 2025, the optimal area for wheat is as follows: 114.0 thousand ha, crop – 421.8 thousand tons, cropland (120.0 thousand ha) and forage land (50.0 thousand ha), maize – 170,0 thousand ha and 714.0 thousand tons, barley – 50.0 thousand ha and 160.0 thousand tons, oats – 20.0 thousand ha and 50.0 thousand tons. In case of land consolidation, the crop area of wheat may be increased to 150.0 thousand ha. To avoid further exacerbation of the problem, it is necessary to activate all reserves for increasing the production of grains domestically; for this reason, first of all, Georgia should adopt a program – “Grain” for supporting grain producers financially, technically, technologically and organizationally, which will also include organizational measures for elite seed production. In our opinion, the production of grain as a strategic food must be considered as prioritized in the medium and long term (as well as the reproduction of its own seeds, saplings, varieties of livestock and agricultural products). This is required by an objective reality created in world food production, Georgia’s overall economic interests, and the task of ensuring food security. One of the key directions in solving this problem is to change the country’s agricultural policy and bring it into line with global challenges. It is about the national economy, which is in a severe crisis, and the commodity producer, who has no incentive for labor; this is when he is creating human livelihoods and the crisis is due to a shortage of products. However, the laws on “Food Security of Georgia”, „On the Protection and Sustainable Development of Multipurpose Agriculture„, etc. are to be adopted. They should become some focus in revitalizing agribusiness and resolving food problems. Only the government can overcome the problem. From all the above it is clear that: - Ensuring food security is the top priority task for the state; - The competence of the government and the degree and direction of its involvement in the agri-food process are crucial factors in saving the country from starvation; It is inadmissible that a country with such potential for increasing wheat production is in a vulnerable position. It is necessary to overcome this situation, taking into account the current reality and the geopolitical situation.
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Wheat, state program, food, efficiency, import
Economics and Business, №4, 2019, pp. 69-82