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Traditional smoked ham is focus of FAO pilot project in Georgia

Swine husbandry and traditional smoked ham production are the focus of a pilot project being launched by FAO in the Racha-Lechkhumi region of Georgia. Financing comes from the Austrian Development Agency through the European Union-funded European Neighbourhood Programme for Agriculture and Rural Development (ENPARD).

Pig producers in the region can look forward to modernization of their farms, introduction of new methods, and construction of new ham smoking facilities.

Animal husbandry is an important sub-sector of agriculture in Georgia – especially in the mountainous Racha-Lechkhumi region. Farmers here have raised swine for centuries, using mountain pastures and local forest resources. Smoked ham produced here is a specialty known all over the country.

Productivity is relatively low, though, due to obsolete equipment, outdated production methods, and repeated outbreaks of animal diseases such as African swine fever.

FAO experts analyzed social and economic factors in the region and, in cooperation with a group made up of local government officials and farmers, decided to support the development of swine husbandry and smoked ham production in Racha-Lechkhumi.

Jambul Jubashvili, a farmer from Racha, hopes to build a modern swine farm for five sows.

“This place is ideal for pig production,” he said of the land he bought for his farm. “There are lots of oak trees all around. As my pigs eat natural feed such as acorns, chestnuts and wild apples, the pork has a special taste.”

Jubashvili is one of the candidates who applied for a swine farm renovation grant, announced by FAO and made possible by the Government of Austria. Other farmers applied for grants to renovate outdated ham smoking facilities. All farmers and cooperatives registered in Racha-Lechkhumi were eligible to apply.

“We will consider all the received applications with a proven history in swine husbandry and meat processing,” said Beka Dzadzamia, manager of the FAO project in Georgia. The only criterion was to have at least two sows at the time of application, he said.

In addition to grants, the FAO project will conduct training to enable Racha-Lechkhumi farmers to improve hygiene and sanitary standards for swine husbandry and ham production.

This pilot activity is the part of Georgia’s rural development programme – a priority of the Ministry of Agriculture. Experience with supporting swine husbandry and smoked ham production in Racha-Lechkhumi is also expected to help with planning rural development measures in Georgia’s other regions.

24 February 2016, Tbilisi, Georgia

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