The former Soviet state of Georgia is vying to become “the New Zealand of the northern hemisphere for kiwifruit” and plans to start exporting to the UK next year.
The country already has a small domestic market for kiwis, but now a new company with international backing is looking to turn it into a kiwi exporter.
Nergeta is already in discussions with one of the UK’s largest fruit importers, which it said was “very interested” in supplying Georgian kiwis to the UK mults.
Founder and director Konstantine Vekua - who has secured financial backing and has previous agricultural experience managing a hazelnut orchard for Ferrero - said the company planned to start exporting to the UK in October 2013, initially focusing on London. “We won’t have the volumes straight away to be in every store across the UK,” he said.
Georgia’s total commercial kiwi crop was expected to be about 600,000 kgs next year, of which at least 50% would be available for export, Vekua added.
At present, Nergeta has planted 24 hectares of kiwis, but it plans to reach 200 hectares of planted land by 2016 to 2017. The company has its own cold storage and pack house, and will also be looking to pack and sell fruit grown by other Georgian growers.
Independent tests had shown Georgian-grown kiwis were as good quality as New Zealand fruit, but cheap land, low labour costs and shorter transport distances meant they would be considerably cheaper to produce, Vekua said. “We really think we can be the New Zealand of the northern hemisphere for kiwifruit,” he added.
Although kiwis will be the company’s initial focus, Nergeta also plans to grow blueberries, persimmons and feijoa - an exotic fruit also known and pineapple guava - for export.