The Georgian government has announced a GEL 300 million (USD 94 million) relief program to help Georgian farmers cope with the impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Unveiling the program at a meeting of the Inter-Agency Coordination Council on May 12, Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia said the Government was willing to support nation’s 200,000-odd farmers to weather the crisis.
The proposed package – dubbed by the Prime Minister as “Taking Care of Village and Farmers” – combines a raft of measures, including direct payments to afflicted farm commodity producers, fuel subsidies, waiving of fees and state support to secure easier access to funds.
Agriculture and food industry makes up around 10 % of Georgia’s gross domestic product.
“A strong village means a strong state,” PM Gakharia stated, underlining his commitment “not to let a plot of land be left uncultivated” despite the emergency.
Targeted measures will apply from May 20. Land owners who will register their property until the end of the year can also claim same benefits, according to Agriculture Minister Levan Davitashvili.
The package envisages direct payments to owners of small and medium-sized farms (0.25 – 10 hectares, or 0.6-25 acres) – GEL 200 (USD 63) per hectare. On the whole, GEL 37 million (USD 11,6 million) has been earmarked for distributing compensations.
Additionally, the Government has promised to cofinance purchasing of agriculture-related goods and services to benefit small farmers – fertilizers and agricultural chemicals, seeds, and maintenance costs for farm machinery.
GEL 40 million (USD 12.5 million) has been allocated for fuel subsidies. According to the plan, land owners (0.25-100 ha or 0.6-250 acres) will be able to buy a liter of diesel fuel one Lari (USD 0.31) cheaper than the average market price (the reduced price will apply to a maximum amount of 150 liters).
The State will also waive irrigation service fees for the rest of the year for all registered farmers.
The Government pledged to cover 50 % of farmer’s expenses (capped at GEL 50,000 / USD 15,625) for further undertakings:
- purchasing farm machinery;
- setting up/renovating greenhouses;
- installation of irrigation system.
In order to facilitate access to financial capital, the State will cover interest payments for six months’ time on loans for growing annual plants.
Farmers can seek government’s help to insure production of perennial crops against natural disaster risks (floods, storms, hail, autumnal frosts).
Targeted assistance amounting GEL 42 million (USD 13 million) will be allocated for dairy farmers.
According to the package, the Government will offer hefty financial aid schemes to help farmers meet international food security standards, and bolster capacity of the fledgling sector of agricultural co-ops.
On May 7, the Government unveiled a USD 62,5 million relief package aimed at softening the impact of COVID-19 crisis for businesses and workers operating in the hardest-hit tourism sector. Stimulus measures include tax breaks and exemptions, direct subsidies, and fiscal incentives.