Agroland, a small processing factory in western Georgia, plays an important role in promoting locally grown agricultural products. The family-run business brings aromatic bay leaves from beautiful Georgian villages with sometimes hard-to-pronounce names to the kitchens of European and global consumers.
“Our suppliers are mainly farmers from neighbouring villages,” says the owner, Aleksandre Nadaraia. “It is nice to know that we help out local communities and let Europe and the world know about natural Georgian products.”
In just nine years, Agroland has shifted from being a small-scale trader of bay leaves to building a processing facility that specialises in collecting, drying, producing and exporting worldwide – and all of these activities require the company to have sound production processes.
With help from the EBRD’s Advice for Small Businesses (ASB) – an SME support programme under the EU4Business initiative – Agroland launched a single platform that makes management of the firm’s internal information available on the spot and easy to track.
“The new system brought positive change to the whole cycle of our work: manufacturing, finance, human resources, marketing and, of course, sales. And we want to achieve more: more clients, more markets, more growth…” says Nadaraia.
With funding from the European Union under its EU4Business initiative, the EBRD provides small and medium-sized enterprises in Georgia with expertise and knowledge to make the most of the closer economic ties with the EU that have followed the country’s signing of a free-trade agreement in 2014.
Boosting production and aligning with European standards, putting sound financial and quality-management systems into place, and using innovative methods of thinking about business – these are just some areas of the vital knowledge and know-how that ASB offers to its clients.
This assistance is particularly important for countries such as Georgia. Every year, Georgia is one of the region’s best performer on international indices that measure whether countries provide a good business environment. However, limited information about international markets and opportunities is often cited as hindering the country’s export potential.
Gurieli tea is a well-known brand locally, sold in retail outlets and served in high-class hotels, restaurants and café-bars in Tbilisi and other major towns in Georgia. Exports to Armenia, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Russia and Ukraine make up 22 per cent of the company’s annual turnover. EBRD advisory services under EU4Business helped the firm to introduce quality standards to further reinforce its brand position by obtaining ISO certification.
“Food safety and quality standards are decisive in our business. Happy customers are loyal clients. Consistency leads to improvements in efficiency and to cost savings,” says Mikheil Chkuaseli, the company’s director. “Quality standards increase confidence and opportunities for cooperation, not only on local markets, but also on export markets. An ISO certification is the universal symbol that products are safe, reliable and of good quality.”
Last year alone, in Georgia, more than 100 companies benefited from these EBRD services and the latest statistics show that 84 per cent have seen an increase in their turnover and 66 per cent have created new jobs.
Above all, it is the wider picture that counts – helping consumers to have access to competitive products, helping businesses to grow and enabling the economy of Georgia to develop sustainably.
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