An interview with Chairman of the Agricultural Committee of Parliament Gigla Agulashvili
What is your attitude to the question of the right of foreign nationals to purchase agricultural land? The theme is very sensitive ..
My approach is based on national interests, and I believe that the land should be owned by those who produce products. There are a lot of different opinions about it.
Approaches to this issue are different everywhere, including in European countries. Restrictions are normal, and there is nothing ultra-radical in our demands.
In general, there are three approaches – the ultraliberal – to completely remove all restrictions; ultraconservative – to completely ban the sale of agricultural land to foreigners, and the third – moderate, which prevails in our government. I just agree with this third approach.
It’s the golden mean that allows foreign citizens buy land under certain conditions, in a case of a real investment, jobs creation, introduction of new technologies, etc..
Previous government looked at agriculture as something superfluous, considering it unnecessary, as the share of agriculture in the total economy is nearly 5%. As a result, agriculture developed only on the level of the individual farmer, and the state did not help.
We changed our approach and agriculture became one of the priorities for us. Any self-respecting country has an obligation to think about food safety and take care of agriculture.
How unanimous is the parliamentary majority on the issue of privatization of agricultural land?
In general, we have a common opinion on this issue, and I think we will reach a consensus. Of course, our opinions differ on specific issues, but in general we will be able to come to a consensus. As you know, a special commission, which includes representatives of the government, parliament, NGOs, etc, is working on this issue.
Not only regulations are necessarily but clear and stable rules of the game, so that investors know exactly their rights and opportunities. We intend to contribute to all who will decide to invest real investment in agriculture. But, I repeat – real. For example, there are many cases when foreigners bought land, but so far it is not treated. This is unacceptable.
I intend to defend my viewpoint and will try to convince the opposition in its correctness, althoughthere is a bit of hope. Nevertheless, I will try, as chairman of the parliamentary committee, and willhold all the necessary consultations with them.
In general, what efforts are being made in order Georgian agricultural products to meetinternational standards?
Primarily we are actively working on legislation. 700 regulations and 300 laws aimed at bringing to the European standard are being prepared. The Food Safety Service has an action plan for the period up to 2020, which provides for the phased implementation of a number of measures for the approximation to European standards.
Many of our opponents who do not want to continue the process of European integration constantly say that “Europe makes us do this and that.” No one makes us. Everything we do, first of all, we do for Georgia.
We should work on a high quality of not only export commodity but also local, for our families, our children and future generations. We need to start from the local market, and then think about the international.
After your coalition came to power, agriculture was seen as a locomotive of the economy in which significant funds were invested. What are the results so far?
First results are already visible in the ratio of the share of agriculture in GDP, which rose to 10%. But in order the results to become measurable for a large number of the population, it is necessary to make the agricultural sector more profitable. Infrastructure projects are needed as well as anti-hail net installations for the protection of crops. We work hard to make incomes higher, and each farmer and pheasant to feel better. For this purpose – investment, knowledge, technique, technologies, should be attracted.