Otar Shamugia: “Export of agri-food products has increased by nearly 150% in the last ten years.”

Verdict: FactCheck concludes that Otar Shamugia’s statement is MOSTLY TRUE.

Resume: According to the statistical data, Georgia exported agri-food products valued at USD 511 million in 2012 whereas this export reached USD 1,262 million in 2022. In a decade, the export of agri-food products has indeed increased by 147%. As compared to 2021, the growth constitutes 10.5%. Therefore, the figures in the Minister’s statement are correct.

However, of additional note is that in his statement, Otar Shamugia only pays attention to agri-food export and does not say anything about the agri-food product trade balance. In the previous years when the negative trade balance was decreasing, ministers and ruling party members always emphasised that and praised this fact. In this case, the Minister overlooks these data since the negative trade balance has increased sharply and seeks to exaggerate the positive effect of export growth. Therefore, Otar Shamugia’s statement is MOSTLY TRUE.

Analysis

The Minister of Environmental Protection and Agriculture, Otar Shamugia, during his visit to the Parliament of Georgia as part of the Minister’s Hour format, emphasised the growth of agri-food exports and stated: “In the last ten years, agri-food export increased by nearly 147%. In 2022, Georgia exported USD 1.3 billion in agri-food products across 96 countries in the world. As compared to the previous year, we have a 10.5% growth in export.”

In accordance with the official data, Georgia exported USD 1,262 million in agri-food products to 96 countries across the world in 2022.

Graph 1: Export and Import of Agri-Food Products in 2012-2022 (USD Million)

Source: National Statistics Office of Georgia

According to the statistical data, Georgia exported agri-food products valued at USD 511 million in 2012 whereas agri-food export reached USD 1,262 million in 2022. In a decade, the export of agri-food products has increased by 147%. As compared to 2021, growth constitutes 10.5%. Export volumes from Georgia were indeed at a record-high last year. Major export goods are wine (20%), spirits (12%) mineral and drinking water (9%), nuts (mostly hazelnuts (8%) and non-alcoholic carbonated drinks (7%).

Top export markets in the reporting year are as follows: Russia (33% of total exports – USD 419 million), the EU (14% - USD 173 million), Azerbaijan (11% - USD 141 million), Armenia (10% - USD 122 million) and Kazakhstan (7% - USD 91 million).

Of note is that as compared to the previous year, export to Russia increased by 9% in 2022, mostly owing to the export growth of wine, spirits and non-alcoholic carbonated beverages.

There was a 31% export growth to Azerbaijan, mostly owing to the increase in exports of processed cereals, soybean grist, live sheep, livestock and poultry as well as poultry meat. Except for live sheep, livestock and poultry, all other products are in fact re-exported.

Export to Armenia increased by 38% largely because of the growth of exports in non-alcoholic carbonated drinks, animal feed, poultry meat and pork. In the case of pork and poultry meat products, these are mostly re-exported.

In regard to the EU member states, as mentioned earlier, agri-food products valued at USD 173 million were exported to the EU which accounts for 14% of total exports. As compared to the previous year, agri-food exports to the EU decreased by 4%. Major export goods are as follows: hazelnuts (raw and processed) – 49%, wine – 18%, spirits – 14%, mineral and drinking waters – 5%.

In his statement, Otar Shamugia only pays attention to agri-food export and does not say anything about the agri-food product trade balance. The trade balance was always negative in 2012-2022 (import exceeded exports). In 2013-2014, the negative trade balance decreased but rebounded again in 2015-2017. Later in 2018-2021, it contracted again and reached USD 590 million in 2022 which constitutes a 185% growth as compared to the previous year when the negative trade balance was USD 207 million.

Graph 2: Foreign Trade by Year (USD Million)

Source: National Statistics Office of Georgia

In the previous years when the negative trade balance happened to decrease, ministers and ruling party members always emphasised and praised this fact (see article 1, article 2, article 3). In this case, the Minister overlooks these data since the negative trade balance has increased sharply and seeks to exaggerate the positive effect of export growth. Therefore, Otar Shamugia’s statement is MOSTLY TRUE.


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