“We have been fighting the stink bug for three years and this year we have finally successfully combatted it”, said Georgian Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze today in the western Georgian region of Samegrelo where together with other authorities and hazelnut sector representatives he summed up the state’s activities against the stink bug infestation.
The brown marmorated stink bug was widespread in western Georgia and a real nuisance to Georgian farmers.
The pest was first reported in Georgia in 2015 but in 2016, the bugs destroyed a significant portion of the hazelnut harvest in western Georgia. 2017 was even more devastating and struck a wider area.
The government of Georgia has created a strategy to combat the brown marmorated stink bug problem, which included four main directions: an information campaign, the implementation of a monitoring system, stink bug control measures and scientific research.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) was also helping the government of Georgia in this process. During the last two years Georgia received $6.5 million from the US for combatting the stink bug. Besides financial assistance Georgia also received special equipment from the US that was used in fighting against the stink bug.
Georgian Agriculture Minister Levan Davitashvili said that thanks to the US partners the department of plant protection, which is involved in fighting against the stink bug, is now equipped with more than 250 special techniques.
Acting US Ambassador to Georgia Elizabeth Rood said that stink bug has become “the biggest challenge” for Georgia during the past three years but thanks to the “fruitful cooperation” between the US and Georgia the problem is now mostly solved.
Now, as the authorities say, the challenge is to avoid reproduction of stink bug again in Georgia.
Agriculture Minister Davitashvili said that for this reason a bio-production laboratory was established in Georgia, which serves to breed natural enemies of stink bug.
Hazelnuts are one of the major agricultural products for Georgia and have been the country’s largest agricultural export by value since 2014, when more hazelnuts were exported than Georgia’s traditionally top exported product - wine.
But since the stink bug widespread in western Georgia it destroyed a significant portion of the hazelnut harvest and gradually export of Georgian hazelnuts have been reduced. In January-June of 2019 the export value of hazelnut from Georgia was approximately $15.64 million, which is 0.9 per cent of total exports in this period, said the National Statistics Office of Georgia.
This year already Georgian authorities are optimistic about hazelnut harvest and aiming to strengthen the country’s role as a major global hazelnut exporter again.
Davitashvili said that this year more than 40,000 tonnes of hazelnut are expected to be harvested, while last year Georgian farmers picked just 17,000 tonnes of hazelnuts due to a number of diseases that affected crops and an infestation of the stink bug.
The hazelnut harvest is currently taking place in the Georgian regions of Samegrelo, Guria, Adjara and Imereti.
This year we will have quality hazelnut harvest where more than 40,000 hazelnuts will be picked. We will regain our position as an important hazelnut exporter country. Earlier Georgia took third-fourth place as an important hazelnut exporter country… Georgia should receive $110 million from the hazelnut export this year. This is an important export revenue for the country's economy”, said Davitashvili.
Earlier in 2016 Georgia together with the USAID launched the Georgia Hazelnut Improvement Project to ensure Georgia produced a higher quality of hazelnuts that would make the country more competitive and increase demand for Georgia’s hazelnuts in the world markets.