|Land of Flowers Still Importing Natural Beauty|
20/02/2011 22:27 (1018 Day 06:50 minutes ago)
The FINANCIAL -- In Georgia, once named the Land of Flowers, almost 80% of flowers are imported from Europe. The tiny country that was one of the main suppliers of the Soviet Union is today trying to re-establish itself in the flower business.
Bennett and Bennett and some other companies have already announced their plans to invest in the production of flowers. Tbilisi Municipality is working on the concept of creating Europe’s largest Flowers Garden. There is the hope now that Georgia will find its role in the global market of flowers.
According to official statistics import of fresh cut flowers in 2008 consisted of 1,700,000 USD and in 2010 - 2,500,000 USD.
These days people in Tbilisi ’s streets are very seldom seen walking with flowers. Some young people are even ashamed to. For others flowers are too expensive and they can’t afford the pleasure. With the average salary being 400 GEL, flowers remain a luxury for most of Tbilisi ’s residents.
What do you think about making a flower greenhouse in Batumi? This question recently appeared on a discussion board on facebook. One person commented that a pink coloured greenhouse would be the best option. This business would never experience any crisis, because funeral flowers are best sold in Georgia today.
Many people agree with this suggestion, but sellers in flower shops and on Kolmeurneoba Square in Tbilisi say that the situation has changed in recent times. People are buying flowers not only for mourning periods but also for celebrations, and as presents.
“I can say today that it’s 50-50. Flowers are sold very well on popular holidays like Valentine’s Day, Love Day, Mother’s Day,” said Tengiz Chumburidze, one of the flower sellers at Kolmeurneoba Square in Tbilisi . “Recently the number of flowers being sold on holy days has increased also. For example on St. Maryam’s day people are buying flowers to bring to church.”
Chumburidze is trading at one of the big open-air flower markets, where the prices of Dutch Gerberas’ bunches are between 10-60 GEL, or 6-35 USD.
Almost 80% of flowers and plants sold in Georgia are imported from the Netherlands, Turkey, Italy and the Equator. Not only grown flowers but also seeds are also imported and planted in greenhouses in Batumi, Digomi, Saguramo and Tsavkisi. Flower sellers in open air markets or in small flower shops can’t deal directly with foreign companies and buy flowers in Navtlughi Wholesale Bazaar. There one can find imported flowers as well as those grown in local greenhouses. Of course transportation costs added to the prime costs double or triple the cost of certain flowers in Georgia. If an imported rose costs 4-5 GEL, one grown in a local greenhouse costs only 1.5-2 GEL.
“The overall situation has changed of course since the Soviet Union. During that time we were the number one flower producing country in the Caucasus. We exported flowers to the whole of Russia,” added Chumburidze.
“I used to have my own two 1,700 square meter greenhouses in Tsavkisi, but I have sold them, because fuel is expensive and I couldn’t heat them properly. Input in this business was so high that I couldn’t get outcome. People don’t buy as many flowers as they used to do in the time of the Soviet Union.”
“I have a 500 square meter garden in Kakheti where I grow roses in the summer. Then I sell them in the bazaar. But in winter I have to buy imported flowers like others at the Navtlughi wholesale Bazaar,” said Tamaz Khutsishvili, flower seller on Kolmeurneoba Square.
“Because of the bad conditions, roses from my garden don’t look as beautiful as imported one. I would use a greenhouse with pleasure if I had the possibility. But as I see nobody supports this business in Georgia, I think they prefer to have flowers imported than to grow them locally,” Khutsishvili said.
Customers complain that imported flowers are good-looking but don’t smell nice because of the chemicals added during transportation to keep them fresh longer. In spite of this, big flower shops have direct contact with foreign companies abroad and implement import regularly every month.
“We have only imported flowers in our shop. 50 varieties of flowers are imported from the Netherlands. Only roses are imported from the Equator, because they are of better quality. There aren’t enough flowers on the local market, besides they aren’t as beautiful as imported ones,” said Natalia Chkhonia, Manager of Flowers.ge, one of the most famous online based flower shops in Georgia.
The best sold flowers are bunches of Roses, Chrysanthemums and Lilies, costing between 20-60 GEL.
To stimulate green areas in the city Tbilisi City Hall launched a Flower Festival in 2005. The flower business market and flower and gardening shops, exhibit at this auction varieties of flower and plants in old Tbilisi territory on May 26. Tatuka Japaridze, Project Manager, notes that the event is getting bigger every year.
“By 2010 we had 46 applicants; six of them were private collectors. Very active annual participants include Georgian companies Gardenia Shevardnadze, Euro Ezo and Dutch company franchise in Georgia, Dutch design Garden. Participants exhibit imported plants as well as flowers grown in local greenhouses,” said Japaridze.
“Though the Georgian market is dominated with foreign seeds and flowers, we try to keep Georgian breeds like cypress, ash-tree, maple, Tuia and kwido. The activities we accomplish are aimed at maintenance and adjoining more and more green areas to our beautiful capital city,” said Koba Kharshiladze, the director of Green-Service.
Apart from Tbilisi City Hall’s efforts the garden landscape design business is becoming trendier among Georgian businessmen and households. As well as Georgian companies, foreign ones are also arriving on the scene.
Euro Ezo is one of the largest companies offering services of the gardening business, beginning with flowers, to landscape design and even wall climbing designs.
“We started the business with only flowers in 1988. After 5-8 years we enlarged our activities and transformed our interests more to gardening,” said Levan Chanukhvadze, Director of Euro Ezo.
“We import not only grown plants, but also flowers and plant seeds from Holland, Turkey and Columbia. They are getting planted in Batumi from where ready-made products are sold in stores.”
As Chanukvadze added demand for flowers and plants was increasing till 2010. The world economic crisis influenced sales significantly.