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Cheese Story

Name: Natural Produktsia Ltd

Place: Dioknisi Village, Khulo Municipality

Type of business: Cheese Factory

Product: Imeruli Cheese

Suppliers: about 450 women from 13 villages of Khulo

Current production per day: 5 tons of milk  (700 kg of cheese) 


The Problem

The 450 women now selling milk directly to the milk collectors of the Natural Produktsia Ltd Factory in Dioknisi, Khulo used to make cheese from their milk.  Women are responsible for milking the household cattle and making the cheese, butter, sour cream and cottage cheese which is then sold as an important part of the family’s livelihood.

Selling these products however is hard and uncertain. The journey by marshutka to Batumi Agrarian Market can take up to 4 hours on bad roads. It is taken to the market by husbands or other male family members or sent with the driver and met by a relative who then tries to sell it. There is no guarantee of a sale and often the family is forced to accept a low price from the market vendors rather than take it home again.

 
The Idea

The idea for the factory came from a member of an old Khulo farming family, Arcadi.  His brother, Tsezari was already in the dairy business in Tsalka with his mother, where, hoping to escape the lack of opportunity in Khulo they moved to Kvemo Kartli and started a small cheese factory in a cowshed.  This cowshed is now a purpose built factory with its Sulguni cheese supplying Carrefour and the 5 star hotels of Batumi. Alliances KK had helped them do it. Arcadi was already selling his brother’s Sulguni cheese from the familiy’s distribution outlet in Batumi Market, but Sulguni only makes up 20% of the market the other 80% is for Imeruli.  When Alliances opened in Ajara in 2014, Arcadi saw his chance. He proposed a small factory collecting milk from the upper mountain villages making Imeruli cheese.  The gamble was that Imeruli sells for 2 lari less per kilo than Sulguni and you have to make and sell a lot more of it to make a profit.


The Solution

450 women are now selling milk directly to the milk collectors of the Natural Produktsia Ltd Factory in Dioknisi, Khulo. The building which opened in September 2015 is compliant with the new food safety and hygiene requirements and equipped with, with new modern dairy equipment.  

Milk collectors from the factory collect the milk daily from the women in their houses. The women were specially trained by a food safety consultant in producing clean milk. The women save two hours a day from not having to make cheese, they save the costs of wood or gas for heating the milk to make it and other materials such as pepsin.  The family is saved the costs and time and worry of having to get to Batumi and sell the cheese.


The End and the Beginning

The programme and Arcadi were unsure of how much milk there would be.  People had said how poor the little red Ajaran cow was, how despairing the rural population. Ajara however has a magic, special even to Georgia, when the news went out that the factory was open the villagers decided en masse to sell.  Overnight more milk than anyone imagined was available.  The factory is processing 5 tonnes of milk about 700kg of cheese a day at a time of year when many dairy factories are thinking of shutting down for the winter as milk supply dwindles until the following spring. They have turned milk away as they have yet the capacity to process more. Expansion is already on the cards.  Of the cheese itself the fat content is high and the milk itself from the high mountain pastures of pristine Ajara.  The cheese moreover is delicious. The queues out the door of Aracadi’s distribution outlet in Batumi Market and the fact it’s sold out by midday testify to that.

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
Fourth Georgian Milk Mark (GMM) Dairy Exports to the USA
24/08/2021
Dairy Enterprise Leanka Ltd from Kakheti region sent 837 kg different types of cheese (Sulguni, Smoked Sulguni, Georgian cheese) via the exporter company Geoproduct Ltd for sale in New York and Philadelphia, USA. The dairy is a member of the Georgian Milk Mark the quality assurance label for Georgian natural milk and its products bare the GMM. The company expects further increased orders in the near future.
Jara Teaching Ready to Go
12/07/2021
Eleven Vet colleges with beekeeping programmes have already received Jara equipment from the Georgian Beekeepers Union (GBU) and Jara Beekeepers Association (JBA). These eleven colleges are ready to integrate the Jara materials into their beekeeping programmes some from September this year and others in the spring semester next year.  The Deputy Minister of Education of Georgia, the Minister of Education of Ajara, and the Mayor of Keda visited the Keda VET College and expressed their support to Jara teaching. ‘We received the package of equipment for Jara teaching. The beekeeper students, enrolled last year, are looking forward to getting lessons related to Jara producing; officially, we are starting teaching from a new semester’ – Ilia Kharazishvili, the head of the beekeeping programme at Kachreti College. The handover of Jara equipment is a follow-up activity of the Training of Trainers in Jara Honey Production for VET Colleges, which was held on May 18th-19th  hosted by the Georgian Beekeepers Union (GBU) and the Jara Beekeepers Association (JBA) in Keda, Medzibna Village. The National Center for Educational Quality Enhancement and sectoral skills organization Agro Duo are supporting the GBU and JBA with Jara teaching integration in the VET colleges. ‘We started cooperating with the Georgian Beekeepers Union and Jara Beekeepers Association for integrating Jara into our beekeeping programme, however, we are going to involve them in updating the whole beekeeping programme. We need their consultancy to share with us all standards to improve the programme’ - Bela Avalishvili, the head of Opizari VET College in Akhaltsikhe. These colleges are  VET College at Batumi Shota Rustaveli State University; Black Sea Keda VET College; Black Sea Shuakhevi VET College; VET College Opizari in Akhaltsikhe; VET College Gantiadi in Gori; VET College Aisi in Kachreti; Training Center Farmers' House in Sagarejo, a brunch of Public College Aisi; VET college Iberia in Bagdati; VET College at Shota Meskhia Zugdidi State Teaching University; VET College at Georgian Technical University - Didi Jikhaishi in Imereti; and VET College Horizonti in Guria.  Last year Akhali Talga VET College in Kobuleti and Khulo integrated the Jara materials into their one-year beekeeping programme, which is attended by twenty-eight beekeeper students. The GBU and JBA also delivered the Jara equipment to these colleges in 2020.
Georgian Milk Day
09/07/2021
On Friday, July 9th, from 10 am until 2 pm, the Business Institute of Georgia (BIG) who manages the Georgian Milk Mark, and the Georgian Milk Federation held a Georgian Milk Day.  The Georgian Milk Mark which started in 2019 now has twenty one dairies currently using the mark. This B2B (Business to Business) event was to bring together the twenty one dairies who presented their products for show and tasting with invited hospitality and retail sector guests. COVID-19 has taken a toll on both sectors and it is hoped that bringing them together will be advantage to them both, in terms of sales for the dairies and supplying quality Georgian products for the HoReCa and retail sectors. The Minister of Environmental Protection and Agriculture of Georgia, the Head of the Agrarian Committee of the Parliament, First Deputy Head of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources Committee of the Parliament gave a speech at the opening of the event. The National Food Agency, the State Laboratory of Agriculture, the Rural Development Agency and the Georgian National Tourism Administration participated in the event.  From June 1st 2021 a new regulation requires HoReCa sector actors to become HACCP certified. The NFA had an information desk at the event to answer questions and provide information.Everyone visited the GMM dairies and viewed and tasted their products.  The event was supported by Alliances Caucasus Programme (ALCP) which is co-financed by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the Austrian Development Cooperation (ADA) implemented by Mercy Corps Georgia. Here you can see photos of the event Gallery . You can see here media reports: https://bm.ge; https://www.interpressnews.ge; https://www.palitranews.ge; https://mepa.gov.ge; MEPAGeorgia https://formula.ge Businesspartner
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