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Pridon Injia: “We may be left without wheat and fuel. Forty percent of oil comes from Russia.”

Verdict: FactCheck concludes that Pridon Injia’s statement is MOSTLY FALSE.

Resume: According to the statistical data of the last years, around 75%-99.8% of wheat imported to Georgia comes from Russia. Nevertheless, contrary to what Pridon Injia claims and, therefore, calls us to join the Russian payment system, Georgia will not be left without wheat. Generally, in the modern world there are no irreplaceable trade partners. Although most of the wheat coming to Georgia is currently from Russia, there are also alternative markets, such as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, the USA (from where Georgia has already imported wheat in the past), etc., from where wheat can be imported and not at a significantly higher cost if we take a look at recent price hikes vis-à-vis Russian wheat. Therefore, that part of Mr Injia’s statement where he speaks about Georgia’s dependence on Russia in terms of wheat is literally true, although the context that Georgia will be left without wheat and we will have to join to the MIR payment system (which in turn has no connection whatsoever with wheat import) is not right.In regard to the import of petroleum products from Russia to Georgia, Georgia’s dependence on Russia is much lower as compared to the 40% as claimed by Pridon Injia.

Taking these factors into account, Pridon Injia’s statement is MOSTLY FALSE.

Analysis

At the session of Bureau of the Parliament of Georgia, the head of European Socialists parliamentary faction, Pridon Injia, talked about the ongoing events and stated: “If we do not take measures in time, we may be left without wheat and oil… 40% of oil comes from Russia. Therefore, is this not the right time that Georgia joins the MIR system?”

FactCheck analysed statistical data of wheat and fuel imports for the last few years. In accordance with data of the National Statistics Office of Georgia, wheat-sown areas in Georgia constituted 47,400 hectares as of 2020 and the yield per hectare was 2.2 tonnes. In the same year, total wheat consumption was 735,000 tonnes and 643,000 tonnes of this amount were for food. Of all consumed wheat, local production amounted to 102,000 tonnes with 71,000 tonnes as opening stocks at the beginning of the year and import was 561,000 tonnes. The self-sufficiency ratio was 15%. According to the latest statistical data, around 75%-99.8% of the wheat imported to Georgia comes from Russia. Table 1 shows the statistics of wheat imported to Georgia from 2012 to 2021.

Table 1: Wheat Import in 2012-2021 (USD Thousand)

Source: Foreign Trade Portal

Statistical data illustrate that Georgia’s dependence on Russia in terms of wheat is rather high. Wheat is transported to Georgia by land (through Larsi), railway and maritime transport. The fact that Georgia has a land border with Russia puts Russia in an advantageous position vis-à-vis other wheat-exporter countries in terms of transport. In addition, wheat is subject to much less regulations during vehicle transportation as compared to transport by sea or rail. On top of that, there is a short distance and a comparably lower price (the price was lower prior to the pandemic. Amid the pandemic, Russia introduced quotas on wheat which resulted in a price hike). These factors stipulate Georgia’s dependence largely on Russian wheat. Georgian authorities tried to ban wheat import by road in 2018 when the then Minister of Finance, Ivane Machavariani, issued a decree on 22 August 2018 that proclaimed only railway and ports have exclusive rights on wheat import and export whilst the import of wheat by other means was going to be banned. The Minister of Finance said that the reason behind this decision was the queues at the Larsi customs checkpoint which hindered tourist flows. The then Minister of Finance also said that the decision was going to neither unsettle the economy nor cause a price hike on wheat. This decision was follows by a massive protest of truck drivers in the summer of the same year. Eventually, the Ministry of Finance conceded and postponed a ban on wheat import by vehicles until October 2019. However, Mr Machavariani stated that the ban on the road transportation of wheat was suspended in the summer of 2019 and there were no plans to reinforce it in the future. The need for the diversification of wheat imports has become particularly nuanced in light of the coronavirus pandemic and the issue again became topical against the backdrop of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

FactCheck has written previously that it is vital to have a diversified wheat import for a country’s food security in order to avoid shortfalls in wheat supply and be less dependent on such an unreliable trade partner as Russia which often uses trade relations with Georgia and, in general, for political goals. Nevertheless, contrary to what Pridon Injia claims and, therefore, calls us to join the Russian payment system, Georgia will not be left without wheat. Generally, in the modern world there are no irreplaceable trade partners. Although most of the wheat coming to Georgia is currently from Russia, there are also alternative markets, such as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, the USA (from where Georgia has already imported wheat in the past), etc., from where wheat can be imported and not at a significantly higher cost if we take a look at recent price hikes on Russian wheat. Therefore, that part of Mr Injia’s statement where he speaks about Georgia’s dependence on Russia in terms of wheat is literally true, although the context that we have to join to the MIR payment system (which in turn has no connection whatsoever with wheat import) and Georgia will be left without wheat is not right. On the contrary, the current is situation is somehow an opportunity for wheat importers to take action instead of just pondering wheat import diversification and start importing it from alternative markets. In regard to Georgia’s dependence on Russia in terms of fuel, statistical data for Georgia’s petroleum product imports in the last few years is given in the table below.

Table 2: Import of Petroleum Products in 2012-2021 (USD Thousand).

Source: Foreign Trade Portal

According to the statistical data, Georgia’s dependence on Russia in terms of the import of petroleum products was the highest in 2019 when Russia’s share amounted to 26.4%. In other years, Russia’s share in imports was much lower as compared to the 40% as claimed by Pridon Injia. Therefore, this part of Mr Injia’s statement is false. Given the statistical data analysed above as well as the context of the statement, Pridon Injia’s statement is MOSTLY FALSE.