Grape Subsidy and the Way Forward

Factcheck‘s article lays out key data on the nature of Georgia’s grape subsidies, which have been wound back substantially this year. It is worth reading in its entirety, but the basic data is interesting reading. Various parties suggest that subsidy should be rerouted towards improving vineyard productivity, and hence reducing the cost of production per tonne of grape. This is worthy of serious consideration.

ISET Policy Institute also performed a brief review of this subject, and suggested that subsidies should be directed towards wine export market diversification, rather than grape subsidy. In this way, it is suggested that vignerons would hence be buffered from wild swings in price due to difficulties in Georgia’s traditional markets.

Aus Vineyard

It has already become a “tradition” in Georgia that the grape harvesting process is always paired with some sort of public agiotage with the 2015 grape harvest being no exception. The low grape prices have seriously angered farmers from the Kakheti region who were expecting continued subsidisation and not the prices for 2015 which are, for them, unacceptable. As a result, some farmers have joined in protests against the low prices. Given the importance of this issue, we attempted to analyse the situation in Georgian viticulture and winery over the past several years.

Vineyards occupy a total of 37,419 hectares in Georgia (according to the agricultural census of 2004) of which 22,227 hectares are located in the Kakheti region. A total of 5,000 hectares of new vineyards wereplanted in Georgia in 2013 and 2014 (4,700 hectares in Kakheti). According to the explanation of industry specialists, the planting of new vineyards (in 2013 and 2014) was due to the successful grape harvests of the past several years and the high incomes from the sold grapes.

According to the data of the National Statistics Office of Georgia, the largest amount of grapes, after 2007 (227,000 tonnes), was harvested in 2014 (224,000 tonnes). The share of the Kakheti region in the overall amount of harvested grapes varied from 51% to 71% from 2007 to 2015. The amount of grapes processed for industrial purposes over the years changed as follows:

Table 1: Amount of Grapes Processed for Industrial Purposes from 2009 to 2014

Year 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Amount of Processed Grapes (Tonnes) 23,000 23,000 43,500 54,000 92,773 124,606

Source: Ministry of Agriculture of Georgia

The amount of revenues from processing grapes equalled GEL 116 million in 2013 whilst the revenues in the Kakheti region alone were GEL 102 million. The overall amount of revenues from processing grapes equalled GEL 177 million including GEL 114 million to Kakheti. As of today, the amount of processed grapes equals 143,167 tonnes of grapes and the revenues amounted to GEL 102,341,924.

It should be pointed out that, over the years, grape prices, including subsidies, changed as follows:

Table 2: Prices of White and Red Grapes (in GEL) from 2010 to 2014

Year 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
White GEL 0.60 GEL 0.70 GEL 1 GEL 1 GEL 1
Red GEL 0.80 GEL 1 GEL 1 GEL 1.3 GEL 1.95
Racha (Red) GEL 3 GEL 3 GEL 4 GEL 8 GEL 8

Source: Ministry of Agriculture of Georgia

As for the role of the government in determining grape prices, the state has been subsidising the grape harvest since 2008. The government decided to subsidise the grape harvest in order to neutralise the negative effects caused by the Russian embargo and encourage the fields of viticulture and winery. The amount of subsidies for grapes by year was as follows:

Table 3: Amount of Money in GEL for the Subsidisation of Grapes from 2008 to 2014

Year 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Rkatsiteli 0.15 0.15 0.15 0.15 0.25 0.40 0.35 0.35
Saperavi 0.25 0.25 0.25 0.25 0.35 0.35 0.15 0.15
Mujuretuli 1.0 1.0 1.0 1.0
Overall 6.1 Million 5.5 Million 4.7 Million 8.7 Million 14.8 Million 32 Million 32 Million 30 Million

Source: Ministry of Agriculture of Georgia

It should be noted that wine is among the top ten Georgian export goods and its share of overall export constituted 6.3% in 2014. The amount of exported wine by year was as follows:

Table 4: Wine Export from 2010 to 2015

Year 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 I-II Quarters
Wine Exports (0.75 Liter Bottles) 15 Million 19 Million 23 Million 46 Million 59 Million 13 Million

Source: National Wine Agency

Georgian wine was exported to 61 countries from 2010 to 2014. The top five export destination countries for wine from 2010 to 2012 barely changed (Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Poland and Latvia). Since 2013-2014, after the abolition of the Russian embargo, it has firmly occupied the first place in export destination countries:  a total of 22,997,170 bottles in 2013 (49% of overall exports) and 37,615,052 in 2014 (63% of overall exports). The rest of the top five remains the same:  Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Poland. According to the data of the first two quarters of 2015, exports have increased to markets such as:  China – 23%, Japan – 21%, Latvia – 20%, Estonia – 16%, Germany – 5%, Canada – 159%, USA – 61%, Kazakhstan – 6%, UK – 33%, Hong Kong – 230% and so on. However, the share of wine exports to these countries is so small that it fails to change the larger image. Hence, due to the decrease in exports to Russia and Ukraine in the first six months of 2015, exports of Georgian wine dropped by 49%.