Georgia - Agriculture
During the Soviet period, agriculture and food processing were major activities in Georgia and the country continues to be a significant producer of wine, tea, fruit, and vegetables. Land use in Georgia varies with local climatic and soil patterns. The cultivation of citrus is concentrated along the Black Sea, particularly in Abkhazia and Ajara. Georgian wine has a reputation for excellence, though the industry has suffered in recent years from the manufacture of fake Georgian wine. The cultivation of nuts and tea are also of fundamental importance. Overall, agriculture, forestry, and fisheries accounted for 21.5 percent of GDP in 2000 and employed 40 percent of the workforce in 1999.
Adverse weather conditions contributed to a substantial fall in agricultural production during the year 2000. The volume of agricultural produce fell by 18.5 percent compared with 1999 and the Ministry of Agriculture and Food estimated losses at US$225 million. A prolonged drought throughout the country was particularly devastating for the agricultural heartland of eastern Georgia; almost 400,000 hectares of agricultural lands were damaged. The damage included 155,000 hectares of grain fields causing the annual grain yields to average 900-1,000 kilos per hectare, half of normal production. The effect on sunflower plantations was even greater with 58,600 hectares of the crop suffering damage and the harvest being almost entirely destroyed in some regions.
Forty-three percent of the country's territory is forested. About 97 percent are located on the slopes of the main and small Caucasus Mountain systems, the remainder are to be found in the valleys of East Georgia and the Colkheti lowlands. As a result of the energy shortage, large forest areas have been cut down, leading to soil erosion, the reduction of underground and surface water, and the formation of land and snow slides. Collectively, these processes have caused soil salination and a decrease in soil fertility in many areas. Reliance on manual labor, out-dated techniques, and poorly maintained irrigation systems also lead to decreased productivity.