Swiss Chocolatiers Camille Bloch Seek Hazelnut Plantation in Guria
Swiss chocolate manufacturer Camille Bloch has revealed plans to grow hazelnuts for its products in the region of Guria in western Georgia. Camille Bloch and the government of Guria have expressed mutual interest in developing hazelnut plantations and introducing new technologies to the sector. Camille Bloch produces two popular brands of chocolate – Ragusa and Torino.
According to Georgia’s largest hazelnut grower, GeoNuts, “In Georgian culture, [the]hazelnut was known from time immemorial. Historical evidence suggests that in VI. B.C. the local population in their gardens grew wild forms of hazelnut. In the future, for several centuries by means of folk selection…better grades [of]hazelnut [were grown], perfectly adapted to local conditions. For Georgia, hazelnuts had a high economic value and brought a lot of income to the population before the revolution of 1917. Georgia in large quantities exported hazelnuts in the EU countries.” Before 1917, hazelnut plantations occupied 8-10 times more territory than in Soviet times. After Georgia’s independence, hazelnut cultivation began to revive. In the 1990s, “coastal areas of Western Georgia began the rapid creation of new plantations and modern processing facilities.”
This month, representatives from Camille Bloch met with the governor of Guria, Merab Chanukvadze, and the Mayor of Lanchkhuti Municipality, Aleksandre Sarishvili. Experts are now considering the territory of Lanchkhuti municipality to find the appropriate areas for plantations. The current plan is to start with 500,000 hazelnut seedlings. The meeting was also attended by Deputy Governor Ketevan Moisperteshvili, Head of Lanchkhuti Municipality Sakrebulo Besik Tabidze, and head of Adam Beridze’s Soil and Food Diagnostic Center Rusudan Takidze.
GeoNuts praises the Georgian hazelnut, saying, “Native grades in Georgia have a number of advantages: powerful root system of local varieties of hazelnut in sufficient quantities draws all the necessary components from the soil, and therefore, in Georgia, are almost not applied chemical fertilizers; local varieties almost do not suffer from various diseases, and therefore in Georgia practically does not use pesticides. And it is no coincidence that the forest nut, cultivated on the territory of Georgia, much less pollution than permitted strict international sanitary standards.”
There have, however, been previous rumors of investment that bore no fruit. In September 2017, Camille Bloch announced plans to use Georgian nuts in its products and a desire to have its own plantation in the country. At that time, Daniel Bloch, the owner of the Swiss company, met with Ioseb Khakhaleishvili, Deputy State Representative-Governor in Imereti. The meeting was also attended by the Senior Councilor of the Embassy of Georgia in Switzerland, Ilia Marjanidze. They discussed locating the Camille Bloch plantation in Imereti, and potentially a high-tech processing facility there.
By Samantha Guthrie