The berry sector suffers from a shortage of workers
Berry production has several major problems in Georgia. Nowadays, the most important problem for the farmer is selling their product at a reasonable price. This sector is hampered by a lack of knowledge and experience in both berry growing, storage, processing and sales. Another major challenge for berry growers has become the shortage of workers in recent years.
Cultivation and growing of berries is a very time-consuming. Different stages of berry production require a large amount of workforce. Picking up is especially time-consuming. Consequently, it is difficult for farmers to find a skilled workforce capable of properly planting and harvesting fruit with high quality. It should be noted that the workforce is not a problem for Georgia only. Ukraine also has a labor shortage. Many Ukrainians go to neighboring Poland seasonally to pick berries, where they are paid more. That is why Ukrainian farmers were forced to increase their remuneration.
For the past two years, the wages of hired workers have increased by about 20%. According to the entrepreneurs, the share of labor costs in the total expenses is about 10-15%. The cost of picking one kilogram of berries in the current season varies from 1 to 1.10 GEL. In some regions it exceeds 2 GEL. The daily wage of the hired worker is 25 to 30 GEL.
“ The labor costs have increased this year. I hire workers from Gori. I pay 25-30 GEL per day, which is about 2 GEL per kilo”-says Giga Mogelashvili, who owns a berry orchards in the village of Variani.
The "Georgian berries Partnership" has blackberry and raspberry orchards in Marneuli. They hire Brigades of the local people for maintaining the orchard and picking fruits. As they say, qualifications and productivity of labor are low.
“There is a shortage of workers in our region. We can say that this is the biggest problem for us”- says David Dabrundashvili, who owns a raspberry orchard in Kaspi. - “The bad thing is that raspberries are not picked as needed. Damaged and crushed berries should not be placed with good fruit. The biggest problem for us is human resources. There is a shortage of people who will have the motivation to pick berries in good quality. It was a big nonsense to plant berry gardens in half-Georgia as part of an immature campaign. We have just 1.5 hectares of raspberries and it is hard to do everything. I don’t know how others who have larger gardens, take care of their berries”- says Dato Gorgadze, the member of Cooperative “Telagori”.
Specialists advise berry growers that in order to cope with the problem of workforce and increased costs, they have to start thinking about increasing productivity and quality. As specialists say, this is the only solution for manufacturers. They need to produce a quality product which will be more expensive.
Author: Nona Kvlividze
The article is prepared with the financial support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania and "Development Cooperation and Democracy Promotion Programme."