Ambassador Degnan returned to Kakheti last week, visiting Akhmeta, Telavi, Kvareli, and Lagodekhi to see U.S. government investments that are helping farmers and small businesses expand their operations, create more jobs in their communities, and ensure Georgia’s economic prosperity and Western integration benefits all regions. In Akhmeta, dairy farmer Rati Rostomashvili gave the Ambassador a personal tour of his family farm.
Through the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food for Progress program, Land O’Lakes used the proceeds from the sale of U.S. wheat in Georgia to help Mr. Rostomashvili buy the new equipment he needs to expand and modernize his operations and produce high-quality dairy products for Georgian consumers. The Ambassador also tasted the delicious cheeses produced by Mr. Rostomashvili’s wife and daughters with the fresh milk from the family’s expanding farm.
Near Telavi, winemakers Vakho Idoidze and Nino Ninua showed the Ambassador how USAID’s Zrda Activity and Economic Security Program helped them expand their gastro tourism business and reach more domestic customers during the COVID pandemic. Ambassador Degnan harvested some Kisi grapes from the vineyard and helped stir newly pressed grapes fermenting in the winery’s qvevri.
In Kvareli, Ambassador Degnan and Minister of Agriculture Levan Davitashvili celebrated the opening of a new 300-square-meter fruit storage unit at the AgroStore Agricultural Cooperative. The storage unit will help local farmers maintain the high quality of their berries, persimmons, apples, and other fruits and preserve its market value for several months after the harvest. In addition to meeting the needs of the cooperative, the unit is available for use by 30 more farmers from the surrounding area.
In Lagodekhi, Ambassador Degnan opened the sixth USAID-supported hazelnut husking, drying, and storage facility. The facility will meet the needs of more than 200 local farmers, with the capacity to process roughly 1,000 tons of hazelnuts per year.
Both of these USAID-supported projects are part of USAID’s agricultural assistance to help farmers sell their products for a higher price by extending their season and improving their post-harvest management, allowing them to reach lucrative export markets, including the European Union.