About Pakka Georgia
The cultivation of hazelnuts is little commercialized in Switzerland. Practically all hazelnuts sold in stores are imported. Unlike in Switzerland, hazelnut production in Georgia has a long tradition and is an important branch of Georgian agriculture. Hazelnut trees are distributed throughout the country. Hazelnuts grow on about 42 percent of the total agricultural area. Four regions in Georgia are particularly important: Imereti, Samegrelo-Zemosvaneti, Guria and Kakheti. Growing conditions for hazelnuts are particularly favorable in these regions because of the low risk of late frost. Hazelnuts are generally not very demanding as far as their location is concerned, but the blossoms can tolerate cold only down to about -8 °C.
Despite many years of experience in hazelnut production, ideal climatic conditions and well-suited soils for growing high-quality hazelnuts, farmers in Georgia today face major problems. The collapse of the Soviet Union has brought particularly severe changes to the agricultural sector in Georgia. Prices for previously readily available inputs such as gasoline or fertilizer have skyrocketed, while sales prices of agricultural products have risen less. The fragmentation of the Soviet collective farm systems into millions of very small agricultural plots and the lack of an institutional framework meant that farmers were unable to bring their products to market.
In cooperation with the Swiss relief organization HEKS (Hilfswerk der evangelischen Kirchen Schweiz) and the Georgian organization Elkana, Pakka in Georgia is part of a public-private partnership project. Over the next few years, a sustainable value chain for hazelnuts is to be established together with around 1,250 smallholder families, each cultivating 1 to 2 hectares of land. Pakka offers the high-quality and hopefully soon Fair Trade and EU-BIO certified hazelnuts wholesale in Switzerland and Europe.