Pottery enterprises are facing bankruptcy
The owner of the Perevi clay mine stopped supplying them with raw materials
Dozens of pottery companies have stopped working for several months and employeeswere fired. The reason for their termination was the lack of basic raw materials - clay. Davit Shukakidze, the owner of “Davit” Ltd, which was the only supplier of raw materials, refused to sell the pottery to the pottery enterprises. Ceramicists say that Shukakidze has made an agreement with the largest ceramic enterprise on the market and decided to give the clay only to it.
"We used to order material to Davit Shukakidze, the owner of the Perevi clay mine, and the raw materials were brought directly to the enterprise. One day we called, and he refused. As we found out someone set a monopoly on this clay. Then several workshops have joined forces and the clay was imported from Ukraine, which was expensive. Small production will not be able to import raw materials because it is difficult to pay such a large amount of money at once. We did not need to import anything before, the necessary raw materials - sand, clay, water - everything was locally available. It was a completely Georgian production. Now I have to stop after so much hard work, while many people’s lives depend on this business, ”- says Paata Mamageishvili, a ceramics producer.
Giorgi Maglakelidze had two pottery enterprises in Rustavi and Tbilisi, where he used to make clay jugs for wine companies. Both productions are currently stalled. The reason for this, along with the current economic crisis, was the cessation of the clay supply. Dozens of small producers had to stop production like Giorgi.
Relatively large enterprises, which had more financial resources, replaced Perevi clay with Ukrainian raw materials. They have to pay more for imported raw materials, which in turn increased costs.
Why did they stop supplying clay from the Perevi field to ceramics producers?
Clay is extracted from many ores in Georgia. Various pottery is made using these raw materials. However, the clay extracted from the Perevi field (Sachkhere municipality) is especially good for making wine ceramic vessels. With the mix of Perevi clay and sludge sedimented in the Duruji riverbed it is possible to get an acid-resistant product in which wine can be stored and transported.
In February 2019, the National Subsoil Agency granted a license to extract clay from the Perevi field (Sachkhere Municipality) to Davit Shukakidze Ltd. "David" for 10 years, considering that he has to build a clay processing plant in Perevi by February 2021, where he will employ 30 locals and invest 250 thousand GEL.
A few months ago, Davit Shukakidze stopped supplying clay to all pottery companies, with one exception. The owner of the mine supplies the clay only to the ceramic’s enterprise “Skhivi-1” Ltd in Avchala settlement.
The license holder names two reasons for the supply disruption: one reason is that its customers mix Perevi clay with Duruji sludge, which contains poisonous substances, and the other is that the money needed to extract the clay was lent by the Avchala pottery owner, so he decided to supply him with the raw material.
As a result of the burgain "Skhivi-1", which already had a significant market share, put many compattitors aside and strengthened its monopoly positions further. It is also a noteworthy to mention that the Avchala factory still uses Duruji sludge, which, according to the mine owner, is poisonous.
"In order to start extracting I needed money, which I did not have. Avchala enterprise lent me that money and took a thousand tons of clay in return. Consider that this ore belongs to him and he can take clay whenever he wants," - says Davit Shukakidze.
Gela (Bachia) Kalmakhelidze, the owner of “Skhivi-1”, does not deny the bargain with Davit Ltd either.
"Yes, I lent money to Shukakidze because I have known him for 25 years. I went to Perevi and bought clay” - says Gela Kalmakhelidze.
- Do you confirm that you have a deal with Shukakidze?
- I neither deny nor confirm. I bought and stocked it. I may not be allowed to take clay later, because he wants to start an enterprise himself”- says Gela Kalmakhelidze
Davit Shukakidze plans to start the enterprise. However, he is not going to build a processing plant as it is written in the license obligation. He is going to produce a tile.
"They put nonsense conditions in the license obligation. What should I get by processing clay? A jam? I said, I would sue them in the court, and they would lose. Perevi clay does not need to be processed. The enterprises manage it by themselves”- says Davit Shukakidze.
What are the components for making ceramic vessels for wine?
The recipe used by the producers of wine bottling vessels was created by scientist Kote Togonidze in the 90s. His invention was registered by Sakpatenti in the 90s. According to Kote Togonidze's recipe, acid-resistant ceramic products are made by mixing Perevi clay and Duruji sludge. After firing at 1100 degrees, the product becomes glassy in consistency and no longer reacts with acid, making it possible to pour wine into it. Prior to this invention, clay imported from Russia and Ukraine was used to make ceramic wine jugs and other types of vessels. After creating the recipe by Kote Togonidze, it became possible to completely replace the imported raw material with Perevi clay.
To prove that it is not allowed to mix Perevi clay and Duruji sludge, Davit Shukakidze cites the work of Guram Gaprindashvili, an engineer-technologist and head of the technical university department, who claims that Duruji sludge contains lead, arsenic and other substances, which remain in the product.
"Duruji sludge cannot be used because it contains heavy metals. The led, arsenic even if it is fired at 1500 degrees, does not disappear and remains in the product, so it cannot be used for food - says Guram Gaprindashvili, - the composition of the sludge brought by the river Duruji changes according to the seasons. From spring to late autumn, the river water moves with different speed, no one knows what mass it will bring, what will flow into the riverbed. It should be examined what its composition is at different seasons. Whoever uses it has never explored it. Duruji sludge is the best for producing floor tiles, but not for wine and food products. Duruji sludge can be replaced with slag and perlite from Lake Paravani, which is harmless. With this recipe we make jugs in which Saperavi is poured and exported to the USA for 10 years.
-Have you checked the composition of Duruji sludge in the laboratory?
-რადუნდაშემოწმება. იქარისმძიმემეტალები, რომლებიცმომწამვლელია”.
-Why should I check. There are heavy metals that are poisonous."
Ia Togonidze, the doughter of Kote Togonidze, who is a co-authored of his invention, calls Guram Gaprindashvili's conclusion a lie.
Sakpatenti tested the composition of Duruji sludge, in the laboratory. If it contained substances harmful for health, they would not have registered the invention. A mixture of clay and sludge, after firing takes the form of stone-ceramics. If we break it down, we will see that it has a glass visual. Because of this, it cannot be disintegrated by 12-degree alcohol and wine. Guram Gaprindashvili tried to get a similar or better product but he failed. He was jealous and that’s why he tells such a lie” -says Ia Togonidze.
The main component for making a ceramic jag is Duruji sludge. Adding it to the clay is necessary to make the product elastic. Otherwise it will be difficult to pure it in plaster molds as the product will crack. The clay-sludge ratio is 50/50 when we need to make a highly elastic product. This ratio can be changed according to the size and strength of the product. However, the clay portion cannot be reduced by more than 25%, because in this case, the product already acquires other properties.
Refractory clay can be found in many places in Georgia, but in order to be used for wine utensils, it must have certain properties. Perevi clay has such a property and it is the only one in Georgia. Once the owner of the mine no longer supplied us with clay, we managed to import it from Ukraine. But unlike the Perevi clay, the Duruji sludge is irreplaceable. To get the consistency of Duruji sludge, 3 different components must be mixed. In Duruji sludge, these 3 different minerals are naturally concentrated and that’s why it is unique.
Duruji sludge contains lead, arsenic, cobalt, as in all soils, but after firing the product at 1150 degrees, it behaves like a glass and the amount of these substances decreases. It is laboratory tested. The winemakers, who buy products from us, also checked the content of these substances in the jags. They made sure that these substances are within the norm”- says Lela Gabadadze, a technologist and ceramicist.
Giorgi Maglakelidze, a ceramic manufacturer, tested his ceramic jag at a laboratory in Hamburg, Germany. The report from the laboratory states that the product contains a permissible amount of lead and cadmium and it is safe for health (see photo).
What is the owner of the clay mine going to do and what will be the future of the ceramic enterprices?
The license holder of the Perevi ceramic mine does not intend to resupply of clay to the enterprises. Davit Shukakidze does not plan to build a clay processing plant either. He says he wants to start tile production and will use Perevi clay himself.
Ceramics produced in Georgia are not controlled. There is no laboratory in the country to check the quality of the ceramics produced.
The National Agencyof Mines which has issued a clay mining license, has not been interested in the state of the field so far. The agency responds that "due to the fact that the investment obligation for the construction of the clay processing plant has not expired yet, the National Agency of Mines has not studied the performance of the obligation of the license holder."
Regarding the issue related to the ceramics market, the Competition Agency told us that they will start investigation as soon as the owners of the affected enterprises appeal.
The government has no answer to the question about the future of stalled enterprises and unemployed people. Small entrepreneurs have two choices: they either have to import raw materials from abroad or stop production forever. At this time, the unique ore is abandoned while precious local resources remain unused.
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."