The role walnuts play in the cuisine of Georgia is no secret to true connoisseurs.
Countless dishes, from aubergine rolls to honey fried caramelised desserts popular over New Year’s Eve, feature walnuts as a key ingredient. The walnut is a staple that makes Georgian cuisine so unique.
However, many may be surprised to learn of the country’s heavy dependence on imported walnuts. Business pioneer Anna Kevkhishvili firmly believes that the situation has to change.
In a nutshell
Anigozi’s story started at the worst possible time, Anna explains. Despite travel bans, strict isolation regulations and a general standstill during the coronavirus pandemic, this turned out to be the busiest period for her company.
Construction of a state-of-art facility began at the end of 2020, and was preceded by countless nights of studying online resources, watching videos and communicating with experts from abroad.
It all paid off because Anigozi celebrated its second successful yield in 2022.
Walnuts grown in Georgia
Although hazelnuts are a major agricultural crop in Georgia, walnuts have a lot of catching up to do:
“Our objective is to reduce and substitute imports on the local market. Then, we would like to bring the recognition Georgian walnuts deserve to the international market,’’ explains Anna.
Last year alone, the company processed around 120 tonnes of walnuts, supplied by local commercial orchards, 90 per cent of which were sold on the Georgian market. This year, Anigozi also collected walnuts from smaller growers:
“It is interesting to try out Georgian varieties. They are delicious but tricky since processing must be done manually. Yet we still want to go in this direction, and help out growers with even one or two walnut trees in their gardens.’’
Located one hour’s drive from the capital, Anigozi already contributes to regional development by creating jobs for local people.
Saving costs and going green
Anigozi is one of more than 200 companies that have benefitted from the EU4Business-EBRD Credit Line. With a loan from the EBRD disbursed through the Bank of Georgia, the company purchased modern equipment to save costs and make its production more energy efficient. The EU complemented the offering with a grant.
“We’ve boosted production volume and efficiency. When our international partners visit us, they understand that this is a truly modern facility and their confidence is increasing as a result of the investment,’’ Anna says.
A work in progress
Anna believes that the success of her company lies in knowledge exchange with partners and experts working in the industry. Her commitment to progress led to her participation in the international conference, organised by the EBRD and the Food and Agriculture Organization in November 2022 that brought together Georgian and Ukrainian nut growers.
“When thinking about the future, it is important to be pragmatic. Georgia will not be able to compete in volume, but the quality of Georgia-grown walnuts gives us an edge in positioning ourselves in a niche market and we are ready to continue working towards this objective,’’ Anna concludes.