The Chandler walnut in Georgia is not yet producing the promised harvests – what is the reason?


The Chandler walnut in Georgia is not yet producing the promised harvests – what is the reason?

02.10.2020

In a few years, Georgia will be able to produce enough walnuts to meet domestic demand

Harvesting of walnuts in Georgia’s intensive walnut orchards will begin in mid-October. Most of the intensive gardens in the country are relatively new, as they were established following the launch of the government’s Plant the Future program in 2014. Within the framework of the program, 2,808 hectares of intensive walnut orchards were laid, which means, theoretically, by 2025 this area should yield up to 12.5 thousand tons of inshell walnuts.

Basically, Georgian walnut growers prefer the American Chandler walnut, which is known for good fruiting. An important role in the popularity of the variety is played by the well-established import of seedlings from neighboring Turkey, with which there is agronomic support.

EastFruit experts asked the owners and agronomists of the largest walnut orchards in Georgia how the season went and what plans they have for selling the walnut.

See also: About 72% of Georgian hazelnuts are exported to the EU countries

Some of the gardeners we interviewed will harvest the first commercial walnut harvest this year, and some are still in standby mode. Since usually a walnut orchard begins to bear fruit in the fifth year after planting, many walnut growers still bear the cost of caring for a young orchard. Each garden has its own characteristics, but we have identified several factors that, according to gardeners, influenced the walnut harvest this year.

Most of all, as usual, for the harvest influenced by weather conditions… November temperature drops from +18 degrees Celsius during the day and to -3 at night last year, as well as the cold spring of 2020, led to the loss of part of the crop at once from several large producers. There are farmers who will not be able to harvest at all this year.

Nodar Modebadze, who together with his partners planted a 13-hectare walnut orchard in the Kakheti region four years ago, says the garden suffered frost damage both last year and in 2020. As a result, almost 90% of the trees had to be cut down, and the remaining 10% withered. If in previous years the plantations suffered from autumn frosts, this year already spring frosts were especially strong in the Sagarejo region, where Mr. Modebadze’s garden is located. Similar frosts were also observed in the Mtskheta region, in Kakheti (Telavi, Kvareli).

Another factor leading to a decrease in the yield of walnuts in Georgia, which was noted by all farmers unanimously, is lack of technological knowledge… Gardeners believe that in the future, the yield from cultivated gardens will be lower than expected at the time of purchase of seedlings, precisely because of the lack of knowledge of the cultivation technology. A lot of walnut growers were burned when choosing seedlings, and in the third year after planting the orchard they did not get “Chandler” at all, and sometimes not even a nut at all. Those who did not spare money for high-quality seedlings realized during this time that Chandler is a rather demanding variety of walnut. Therefore, most of the large producers consult with Spanish, Italian and Turkish agronomists.

See also: “How to get three tons of walnuts per hectare in the third year – the experience of California, USA”

Despite the difficulties, according to producers, in a few years Georgia will be able to produce enough walnuts to meet domestic demand. Moreover, the consumption of walnuts in Georgia is one of the highest in the world in per capita terms. Only after meeting domestic demand are farmers going to think about exporting walnuts. Although, progress is already evident – Georgia is already actively increasing the export of walnuts.

The pandemic did not have a significant impact on nut production, but there are concerns in the sector about a potential decrease in demand for walnuts. Guram Nakashidze, who planted 82 hectares of an intensive walnut orchard in Kakheti, Eastern Georgia, expects to harvest 15 tons of walnuts this year, since the garden is only three years old. Next year, the farmer plans to harvest about 70-80 tons of walnuts, and after reaching full maturity, about 300-400 tons of walnuts per year. Guram plans to sell his harvest entirely on the domestic market. The farmer fears that the demand for walnuts in Georgia will decrease this year due to the pandemic, since one of the largest consumers of walnuts is the HoReCa sector.

Farmers expect that in 2020 the purchase price for inshell walnuts on the local market will be 8-9 lari per kg ($ 2.5-2.8), and for a kernel – 24-26 lari ($ 7.5-8.0).

Despite the existing problems, the owners of intensive orchards believe that the production of walnuts should become a profitable business for them in the future, because the climatic conditions in Georgia are suitable for growing this crop, and the demand for walnuts in the world is growing every year.

EastFruit

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