A Danish investor is cultivating an Italian poplar plantation in Abasha
New furniture raw materials may appear in the country for the manufacturers.
As it is known, the local production of furniture suffers from a shortage of natural wood materials. Due to the fact that oak cutting is banned in Georgia, walnut material is in small quantities, the supply of beech material to the local market is limited, the furniture industry has to use imported raw materials, which reduces the opportunities to produce quality products.
Therefore, it is important for furniture manufacturers to appear new resources in the country. The rource of raw material for the manufacturer can be the Italian poplar or hybrid poplar tree so-called, planted in Abasha by Danish investor Jesper Jorganson.
Jesper Jorganson is the founder of “Sustain Energy Denmark”, a company that grows bio-forest and produces bioenergy. He arrived in Abasha in 2016, obtained Georgian citizenship and founded the company JSC "Marani". Jesper Jorganson started planting Italian poplar seedlings on 160 hectares in Abasha Municipality. Currently, there are 250 million mother hybrid trees in the nursery. It is possible to get 2 to 3 million new seedlings from it every year. The Danish investor plans to cultivate an Italian poplar plantation in addition to the nursery. The company will supply the wood material obtained from the plantations to the furniture production. In addition, sawdust will be used for producing briquettes that are used for heating.
- Why did you decide to cultivate Italian poplar nurseries and plantations in Georgia?
- The soil and climatic conditions of western Georgia are favorable for hybrid poplar trees. There is abundant rainfall and proper sunlight here. The poplar tree grows on average of 2-2.5 meters per year, the Italian hybrid poplar tree, specifically (AF-18) grows to a height of 4-4.5 meters per year. Growth can be accelerated due to climatic conditions. The climate and soil in western Georgia gives that opportunities. Here it does not need watering. The seedling takes root by itself and finds water. The tree will be mature in 5 years. By this time its height will reach 20 to 24 meters and we can cut and use it. Interestingly, the tree has the ability to regenerate and continue to grow at the same rate for 25 years after cutting, ie it can be cut and re-grown 5 times in 25 years.
The Italian poplar of this species, AF-18, is called a hybrid, which means that it is a clone bred from a breeding different species. "Marani" follows the concept of green energy, so we do not use chemicals, including to remove grass and weeds.
Hybrid poplar wood material is used in the manufacture of furniture and paper. The sawdust obtained from wood processing is a biologically pure product, biomass used for fuel. Briquettes are modern firewood that has more energy value. It is more expensive than firewood but burns 10 times slower and is 5-6 times more heat efficient. We are also going to produce briquettes and offer them to schools to replace firewood and use it for heating. For testing, we purchased a small-capacity RUF briquette factory located in the village of Matani in Kakheti.
European countries are actively switching to green energy. Italian poplar sawdust is used as a fuel by thermal power plants. It is necessary for Georgia to move to ecologically clean production. It will be good for the ecology, to reduce air pollution. We want to explain this to the Georgian government as well.
- Do you produce enough raw materials for the thermal power plant?
- Yes, our production will be enough for that. Approximately 240 thousand tons of pure raw materials (timber) can be obtained from the plantation cultivated on 1200 ha. According to our plan, in 5 years a hybrid poplar tree should be planted on 6 thousand hectares to get the material that will be used for energy and furniture.
We have a nursery in Abasha on the area of 160 hectares where 1.250 million trees are planted. This nursery is 4 years old. At this stage we produce seedlings - we cut the branches of the mother tree, multiply the seedlings and sell them. Now we have started to cultivate plantations where no trees will be cut down. We will wait for it to increase until it reaches its maximum height. After 5 years the tree will be ready to cut down. The life cycle of a hybrid poplar tree is about 20-25 years. During this period, it can give us huge amounts of biomass.
- What category of wood will you use for the furniture?
- The second project we are considering is the production of wood materials for furniture. Hybrid poplar trees are distinguished by their lightness and are actively used in the furniture industry. This wood is used to make tables, chairs and even items that require light materials. Doors can also be made from it. Our partner company, from which we purchased seedlings, sells wood materials for furniture in Europe. If Europe uses it, why can't furniture manufacturers use it in Georgia as well? We have not started working in the field of furniture yet. We have not yet communicated with furniture manufacturers. If they are interested, we can cut down young, 3-year-old trees for test production. we can also plant tree for them and if they are interests, we can negotiate about prices.
- Do the government know about your plans? Do you have any support from them?
- I want to introduce my idea about briquettes and energy production to the government. Such bio-resources do not pollute the environment unlike oil and other energy sources. I would also like to suggest to the Georgian government to use Italian poplar as a windbreak. For example, it can be planted near Kutaisi airport, it will reduce the wind and it can absorb the aircraft emissions. It is known that the hybrid poplar tree emits the same amount of oxygen as it absorbs carbon-dioxide. Poplar tree plants also reduce the risk of erosion, improve biodiversity and protect the environment.
- Will you sell the product within the country or are you going to export it?
- We have already sold seedlings in Azerbaijan. They bought for planting of one of the city. We have negotiations with Armenia. We also plan to export seedlings to Kazakhstan, Turkey and other countries. Of course, we prefer to sell in Georgia because transportation will be cheaper.
- What will be the price for your product?
- One seedling of Italian poplar costs 90 Eurocents in Europe. We bought it at this price. We sold it in Azerbaijan for 80 eurocents. Its price on the Georgian market, of course, will be lower. I cannot tell you the price of wood material yet. We will define it after negotiations.
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."