While plowing and sowing still goes on in spring, some farmers are not hurrying to start plowing. In addition to expensive fuel and equipment, many have failed to sell their harvests, or the money they have received for their produce has been so little that they have failed to even recoup their costs.
Meskhetians, who originate from Georgia’s Samtskhe-Javakheti Region are Muslims who speak an east Anatolian Turkish dialect. Their entire population of over 100,000 people was deported from the region to Central Asia by Stalin. Unlike other deported peoples, they were not allowed to return after Stalin’s death. A small number remain in Georgia.
‘I plan to harvest as many potatoes as I can, as it will be enough for the children’, Guliko Kapanadze, from the village of Bolajuri tells Samkhretis Karibche.
Givi Kachkachishvili, from Arli, has stored his harvested potatoes at home. He tried selling them in the capital but didn’t manage.
‘We cannot sell them here. So I decided to bring them to Tbilisi to sell somewhere, but everywhere the price per kg was ₾0.1 ($0.04). So I brought them back’.
Givi says that they aren’t the only family in Arli whose harvest will be left to rot at home.
‘People took out loans from the bank, spent a lot of money, but failed to sell their harvests, and now we have tonnes of produce left to rot’.
The problems for Meskhetian farmers does not end with selling their potatoes; those harvesting cabbages had the same problem.
‘No one is asking for us’, Dimitri Tabatadze from the village of Chorchni says, adding that 80% of families in his village are struggling.
‘Those who have cars bring their harvests to the capital, but they do not benefit, as they sell the harvest for pennies. Our harvest is rotting here. I will probably throw it out soon’, he said.
Tabatadze remembers a time when resellers would visit farmers at home to buy 1 kg of cabbage for ₾1.50 ($0.60), but now they don’t want to buy it for even ₾0.20 ($0.08).
‘To hell with my labour. I begged people to buy it somehow, so it wouldn’t rot at home, but they do not want it’.
According to the regional department of the Agriculture Ministry in Samtskhe-Javakheti, this year, almost 19,000 hectares of potatoes were planted, resulting in a harvest of 350,000 tonnes. Mamuka Tamaradze, deputy director of the department, explained that farmers from Ninotsminda-Akhalkalaki had the best harvest, while the harvest was less successful in other municipalities of Samtskhe-Javakheti, due to climate conditions.
Additionally, 250 hectares of cabbage was planted this years, with farmers harvesting 13,000 tonnes of cabbage.
Tamaradze claims that there was no reason the farmers shouldn’t have been able to sell their potatoes this year.
‘There are lorries from Azerbaijan parked in Akhalkalaki and Ninotsminda, buying potatoes. The same happens in Vale’, Tamaradze said, adding that 1 kg of potatoes sells for ₾0.30-0.60 ($0.12–0.24).
Tamaradze says that buyers choose municipalities by the volume they produce.
‘They do not have such a big harvest in Adigeni [Ninotsminda-Akhalkalaki] that lorries would drive all the way up and buy the potatoes. That’s why they have failed to sell them’, he added.