Empowering Young Farmers to Build a Thriving Potato Sector

Speeches Shim

Wednesday, December 15, 2021
Giorgi Khitarishvili working on his farm near Akhaltsikhe in southern Georgia.

At 25 years old, Giorgi Khitarishvili is building a thriving potato farm using innovative tools and technologies provided by USAID. Currently, USAID is partnering with more than 2,300 farmers, helping them increase revenues by growing high quality, disease-resistant potatoes.

For Giorgi Khitarishvili, growing potatoes is in his blood. His family owns and operates a potato farm in the village of Vale, near Akhaltsikhe in southern Georgia.

As a child, Giorgi didn’t give the idea of potato farming much thought. It was simply how his family made their living. Little did he know that, years later, the potato sector would become a center for innovation in Georgia’s economy, and a potentially lucrative business for the country’s farmers.

Now 25 years old, Giorgi is one of a growing group of young farmers who are using modern tools and technologies to produce larger, higher quality potato harvests, and generate larger revenues in the process. In fact, this year’s potato harvest has dwarfed previous years in terms of exports. During the first nine months of 2021, total exports topped $10.35 million, roughly ten times the figure for all of 2020 ($1.04 million).

“This year the price of potatoes is significantly higher than previous years. Growing potatoes is a great business opportunity for young people in our region,” Giorgi says, while looking out over the 1.5 hectare farm that provided him with 50 tons of potatoes last season.

To deliver this impressive harvest, he grew a mixture of potato varieties, including Arizona, Pikaso, and Monaliza. He also planted Meskhuri Tsiteli and Tskriala varieties using high-quality seedlings provided by USAID. 

Giorgi is one of more than 2,300 farmers benefiting from the USAID Potato Program in Georgia, an activity launched in 2019 to help Georgia’s potato sector become more modern and productive, and better able to replace costly imports with domestically produced potatoes. The program’s goal is to provide local farmers with the innovative technologies and production methods they need to meet growing demand for potatoes, increasing revenues and creating job opportunities in Georgia’s rural communities.

Just before planting season in 2021, Giorgi participated in a training session led by international experts contracted by USAID. The training session provided useful guidance to help him increase his yields by preventing the spread of pests and diseases.

He also plans to join the newly-formed Potato Producers Network – a USAID-supported network of farmers – to learn best practices from other farmers and build important market linkages.

Meanwhile, he and his family are already preparing for the next growing season, putting aside planting material to ensure an even more lucrative harvest in 2022. They also plan to expand the portion of their farm devoted to potato production.

Last updated: January 14, 2022

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