Georgian fruit-and-vegetable exports now enjoy conditional, duty-free access to the European Union, one of the world’s largest markets. But to cash in, Georgia faces the daunting challenge of overhauling its subsistence-based agricultural sector.
Under a free-trade deal that went into effect on September 1, Brussels is giving qualified Georgian-grown products duty-free access to the EU. Both sides see the agreement as a way to add a powerful economic component to the European integration pledge that Georgia, along with Moldova and Ukraine, signed this June.
Within Georgia, most interest focuses on what the deal will mean for the agricultural sector, which employs more than half of the national workforce of roughly 1.6 million people. Currently, 56 percent of Georgian agricultural exports go to formerly Soviet states, according to official data, but the government hopes that an estimated annual savings of over $8 million from eliminated EU-duties will prompt Georgian farms to look toward wealthier, western markets.
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Giorgi Lomsadze is a freelance journalist based in Tbilisi. He is a frequent contributor to EurasiaNet.org's Tamada Tales blog.