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Honey Testing as a Constraint for the Georgian Honey Export

Honey testing requirements for export and laboratory testing capability and reality in Georgia were the main topics of the ALCP Second Honey Sector Advisory Committee meeting on 9th of October, 2019. The meeting gathered up to forty key stakeholders of the sector, including the Georgian Beekeepers Union (GBU), the Minister and Deputy Minister of Environment Protection and Agriculture of Georgia, Head of the National Food Agency, the Laboratory of Ministry of Agriculture (LMA), private laboratories, a honey exporter company Kakhetian Traditional Winemaking KTW.

A laboratory service subsidy scheme was presented at the meeting, that serves for supporting honey export development through creating accessible and affordable laboratory  testing services for the Georgian beekeepers and honey exporters, which still remains as one of the key constrains for exporting Georgian honey abroad.

“For me, the honey sector is one of the most complex sectors in agriculture and I think the format of this meeting helps us with finding the best solutions to keep the sector going. I am pleased that today’s topic concerns honey laboratory testing, as we are determined to make honey as an export product. We have already made some important steps, like, participation in Apimondia 2019 and other important events for honey promotion. I think we can elaborate and agree on a future working model” – Levan Davitashvili, the Minister of Environment Protection and Agriculture of Georgia.

“Access to affordable laboratory services will not only decrease prime cost of honey, but will ensure quality honey to be sold at local and international markets” – stated Mikheil Tetruashvili, the GBU board member.

The Minster of Environment Protection and Agriculture of Georgia appointed a focal point in the Ministry to improve communication with beekeepers. The meeting participants agreed to continue work on the topic together with the MEPA and NFA.

The meeting was facilitated by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) project the Mercy Corps Georgia implemented the Alliances Caucasus Programme (ALCP). 

Photo Source: The Ministry of Environment Protection and Agriculture of Georgia

OTHER NEWS
24/03/2020
The Kindness of Strangers

Amidst the negative news and stories of unthinking behaviour, some stories have emerged globally of people and business who have responded to the crisis with kindness and generosity. These stories fill all of us with a sense of hope and comfort in our ability to work together. So we are delighted to be able to share the stories of some of the ALCP clients who have been contributing to the common good over the past week:

Roki Ltd, the largest veterinary input supplier and producer in Georgia, has started the production of a new hand sanitizer Septer as a response to increased demand. Supplies sold out in a day to banks, the Ministry of Education and clinics and there is a new order for four tonnes of Septer from the government. The company closely cooperated with the government in developing the product trying to use its resources for the benefit of all;

A GMM cheese distributor has organized the collection of cheese from eleven Georgian Milk Mark dairies: Milkeni, Tsintskaro +, Cheese Hut, Shuamta, Tvisis Kveli, Tsifora –Samtkhe, Tsezari, Coop. Khiza, Coop. Disveli, Teleti Ltd, I.E. Hakob Hambaryan and distributed it to theInfectious Diseases and AIDS Center in Tbilisi to support medical staff during the outbreak;

GMM dairy Tsipora Ltd in Samtkhe-Javakheti has supplied cheese to the Abastumani Lung Center.

Tsivis Kveli Ltd Kakheti brought cheese to the hotel Chateau Mere in Kakheti - for those under quarantine;  

The Georgian Beekeepers Union initiated the collection of honey from local beekeepers across the country to supply people in vulnerable groups.

The KTW group offered the government the use of their forty-one rooms hotel-complex Akhasheni Wine Resort &Spa, for arranging a quarantine zone in Kakheti region. 

16/03/2020
First Bio Certified Honey in Georgia

In a country first, eighteen Jara beekeepers in Ajara have received Bio certification. Jara honey was not even commercially harvested and branded until 2018, however the market for the honey has proved its strength so successfully that the beekeepers saw the opportunity to further promote their product through bio certification.  

The conversion was relatively simple and certainly achievable as Jara honey is based on the capture of wild swarms and is relatively hands off. Since November 2018, the Jara Beekeepers Association (JBA) has been facilitating training and on-site recommendations; it also provides treatment of hives with a Bio vet medicine and special equipment for the mentioned Jara beekeepers. The beekeepers now follow the bio requirements; including keeping records, better husbandry, use of bio vet medicine. This allowed for smooth journey through the minimum one-year conversion period for certification.

Caucascert, the only organic certification company in Georgia issued the internationally recognized Bio certificates after laboratory results and field checks, which did not show any incompliance.

‘I am very proud that I was able to get Bio certification. It was challenging, as I did not have any kind of information before, but support from the JBA was crucial. I can already see the outcomes, because the process already contributed to minimizing disease risk and increase productivity of a Jara hive by thirty percent’ – Bio certified Jara beekeeper from Keda municipality.

Six more Jara beekeepers, including the Jara apiary in the Goderdzi Alpine Garden, are currently undergoing the certification process and might obtain certification by the end of this year.

The Jara honey mark was registered in February, 2020 and both its production and the market for it, including export is growing. More details on Jara honey to be found on www.jarahoney.com.


21/02/2020
Honey Quality Levels Continue to Rise

As part of  the agreement which allows Georgian Honey to be exported to the EU, the government annually carries out a Residue Monitoring survey.  Worryingly high residues of prohibited antibiotics were found in previous years (see infographic below).  2019 however saw  national information campaign carried by the Georgian Beekeepers Union, who developed and disseminated Do’s and Don’ts Antibiotic Use Infographic and facilitated breakthrough legislation adopted by the Government of Georgia, which prohibits registration of the beekeeping vet medicines containing restricted antibiotics, among others. As a result, this year, only eight percent of honey samples tested positive for prohibited substances, compared to fifty-four percent of the last year, according to the Residue Monitoring Plan results, made by the National Food Agency in the BIOR laboratory in Riga, Latvia.

It is a significant achievement for Georgian honey export opportunities and expanding markets.

                             

05/02/2020
The Jara Honey Mark Registered

The Jara Beekeepers Association (JBA) has registered the Jara honey mark in the National Intellectual Property Centre of Georgia - Sakpatenti

The mark ensures the protection of Jara honey from falsification and represents a quality compliance guarantee verified by the JBA who are dedicated to preserving traditional beekeeping practices based on  Quality Assurance Standards developed by the JBA last year.  

In 2018, Jara honey was commercially harvested and packaged according to the standards for the first time. This year it was exported to the United Arab Emirates and the export market is growing.

20/12/2019
The Georgian Milk Mark Cheese at the Georgian Cheese and Wine Evening

On 16th of December 2019, the Georgian Milk mark organized a Georgian Cheese and Wine evening at 8000 Vintages to introduce cheese with Georgian Milk mark (GMM) to the supermarkets and encouraged them to pass information on the advantages of GMM cheese to consumers. Cheese with Georgian Milk mark does not contain milk powder or any vegetable oils, it has laboratory analysis and is produced in the enterprises which are HACCP certified.

The Guests had the opportunity to taste different types of cheese made from natural raw milk produced by thirteen enterprises: Milken Ltd, Tsintskaro + Ltd, I.E Hakob Hambaryan, I.E Karen Simonyan, I.E Tsolak Grigoryan, Tsifora –Smatskhe Ltd, Tsalka +Ltd, Dairy Products Company Tsezari Ltd, Gocha Gagashvili – brand name Tsivis Kveli, Levan Bejanishvili-brand name Shuamta, Badri Gogoladze – brand name Cheese Hut, Coop. Tanadgoma, Coop. Disvelli. The Information per enterprise is available on www.georgianmilk.ge. The website allows consumers to look up the products they are buying using a unique register number printed on a label.

The evening of Georgian Cheese and Wine was attended by Mr. Levan Davitashvili, the Minister of Environment Protection and Agriculture of Georgia, by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation Project Alliances Caucasus Program (ALCP) implemented by Mercy Corps, Georgian Milk Mark Project Administrator - Business Institute of Georgia and Marketing Company GMA Representative, the supermarkets and the dairies using the Georgian Milk mark.

The evening was headed by Zaza Grigalashvili, an '8000 Vintages' Sommelier, who spoke about Georgian cheese and wine pairing.

Helen Bradbury, ALCP Team Leader: ‘We have private sector cheese enterprises in the room from different regions, these are a real dairy businesses operating for years and years. It is very important that this is Georgian Milk from Georgian cows who eat Georgian grass. Consumers want to eat natural, healthy, good country food which comes from this beautiful land, from this beautiful clean water, from happy cows and are made in communities living in countryside.  Today we are at 8000 Vintages and we all know the history of wine. If you want ‘Qvevri’ wine or European style wine we know from where it comes from its name and the consumer can choose according wine value and its good for the producer, they can add more value and then this value goes back to the jobs, factories in the communities. So in the dairy sector it is going to be the same: as cheese will have the name, taste, value, style and its started to develop, the money supporting these factories goes back to women who are supplying milk, their families, they are putting money to their children education and investing in their life'. 

Levan Davitashvili, The Minister of MEPA: ‘I think the most difficult sector in Georgia is adairy sector and we have a lot to do together. A good presentation of a final product the market and how we bring cheese to the consumer is very important. We can say that competition between the enterprises is unfair, but we work on this via new the regulations to change the situation in the sector, we also empower our laboratories to have better quality and safe products. Today we have Georgian Milk mark presentation which is a very good idea for providing information to the consumers about dairy products, which also gives advantages to producer'.

The Products with the mark are available in Madagoni, Spar, Ori Nabiji, Nikora, Zgapari, Fresco, Carrefour, and Goodwill supermarket chains.

11/11/2019
The Georgian Milk Mark dairies at the Cheese and Hot Drinks Festival

Tsintskaro + and Tsipora-Samtskhe dairy products with the Georgian Milk Mark were introduced at the Cheese and Hot Drinks Festival organized by Anna Mikadze – Chikvaidze, the Head of Cheese Producers Guild and held at the Mtatsminda Park on 10th of November, 2019. The visitors tasted cheese and received information about the Georgian Milk mark.  

‘What makes this festival important is to introduce cheese with the Georgian Milk mark, which says to consumers that cheese is made from natural raw milk’ -  stated Anna Mikadze - Chikvaidze.

Currently seven dairy enterprises are using the Georgian Milk mark: Milkeni; Tsintskaro +; Tsipora –Samtskhe; Cheese Hut; Tsezari; Tsivis Kveli; Shuamta.

Products with the mark are available in Madagoni, Spar, Ori Nabiji, Nikora, Zgapari, Fresco, Carrefour, and Goodwill supermarket chains.

Information per enterprise is uploaded on www.georgianmilk.ge. This allows consumers to look up the products they are buying using a unique register number printed on the label.

LATEST NEWS
New Beekeeper Info Links Launched
22/05/2020
On the May 20th, 4,400 beekeepers registered in the new GBU database received an SMS notification from the Georgian Beekeepers Union (GBU) on how to treat Varroa, the most common bee disease in Georgia. The GBU will continue informing its members through phone Facebook. And their new official webpage is now online: www.geobeekeepers.ge. Created in 2018, the GBU is an umbrella association uniting ten beekeeping associations and three commercial beekeeping companies.  
Beekeepers Union Keeps Bees Moving
21/05/2020
The Georgian Beekeepers Union (GBU) successfully advocated for permits to be issued for beekeepers allowing them to continue work during the curfew. The Government of Georgia declared the nationwide curfew on March 30th, 2020 to restrict the spread of the COVID-19 virus, prohibiting any movement from 9:00 PM to 06:00 AM. This posed a serious problem for beekeepers who rely on transhumance predominantly at night. In Georgia, bee transhumance allows for beekeepers to place hives at different altitudes to capture the flowering of different plants. Starting from late Spring, Georgian beekeepers start to move apiaries to get different types of honey including Acacia,Chestnut, Alpine, Linden. The transhumance of bees significantly increases their honey productivity. On April 4th, the GBU sent an official letter to the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture of Georgia (MEPA) asking for the issuing of permission/passes for beekeepers including the guidance it developed for beekeepers during the Covid-19 outbreak. ‘We asked the Minister to mediate with the appropriate agencies to issue special permits, so that beekeepers may access their apiaries and work there, transport beekeeping apiaries for transhumance on pre-determined routes within the curfew conditions.’ – Avksenti Papava, the Director of the GBU. Up to eight hundred beekeepers have already used permits, who are now able to visit apiaries and carry out vital seasonal treatment and maintenance.  Bees are transported at night where possible, because they do not leave a hive during night, which the permit makes possible. ‘I have my apiaries located in the different regions for getting various types of honey. I was very happy to hear about special permit for beekeepers, as it is very active season in beekeeping. I am able to freely move to the locations and do not worry about time limitations’ – Kakhaber Zirakasvili, a beekeeper. Guidance and contact information on getting permits and the Covid-19 recommendations have been shared by the GBU on its facebook page. The Georgian Beekeepers Union (www.geobeekeepers.ge) is an umbrella association uniting ten beekeeping associations and three commercial beekeeping companies with more than four thousand Georgian beekeepers. It was established to represent their interests and to promote the health and development of the honey sector in Georgia with the facilitation of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) project the Mercy Corps Georgia implemented Alliances Caucasus Programme (ALCP).
Kindness is Contagious
19/05/2020
In the midst of anxiety under the COVID-19, some people rise to the occasion when faced with adversity and it is uplifting to hear stories about them. As for many others it has been difficult times for the client businesses of the programme, but they have continued to help people most affected by the current crisis over the past two weeks.   Ten dairy enterprises with the Georgian Milk Mark www.georgianmilk.ge provided cheese for the medical staff of hospitals in the frontline of battling the virus as well as people under quarantine and locals in the lockdown areas in the different regions of Georgia, who have limited access to the markets. ‘It is now important to show support to each other. I was very happy to see reactions from people, who were very surprised and thankful. I think those GMM enterprises set very good example for others.’ – A GMM cheese distributor.   The Georgian Beekeepers Union (www.geobeekeepers.ge), uniting ten beekeeping associations and three commercial beekeeping companies supplied 1.2 tonnes of honey for further distribution among medical staff and vulnerable groups. The Kakhetian Traditional Winemaking group’s (programme facilitated honey aggregator and exporter company) forty-one rooms hotel-complex is being used as a quarantine zone, the company also supplied food to locals over seventy in two regions of Georgia within a social project ‘Care for Each Other’ initiated after the virus outbreak and is now offering online sales and a free home delivery of its products (wine, compotes, jams, including, honey); the company’s webpage Old Kakheti went online to improve online sales. These are a few examples and continuation of the kindness acts that started a month ago.
LATEST PUBLICATIONS
Covid-19 Guidance for Beekeepers
A Pragmatic Approach to Assessing System Change
FAO Bee Disease Guide