Food Security and Nutrition in Georgia
Food Security is a set of coherent social and economic policies which creates an enabling environment for the access of nutritious and healthy food for the population. In Georgia, the main challenges of food security primarily manifest themselves through high import dependency, low local production and the lack of physical or economic access to nutritious food, particularly for the poorer segment of the population or communities in the high mountainous regions.
Availability and Access
The food system in Georgia cannot ensure the population of the country with stable and high quality or adequate food, even in non-crisis situation. The issue of food provision has been left largely to a market supply-and-demand mechanism. It relies on the physical presence of food in the shops and markets, carried out through free market principles. However, there is a disproportion between the market price of products and the local income levels, which results in a segment of the population being unable to afford high quality food. Instead, they have to consume cheaper imported, low-quality and/or falsified products. Local food production has not managed to compete with the cheap and frequently subsidized imports, and has thus decreased considerably. The low levels of food self-sufficiency and the low disposable income increase the risks of worsening food insecurity.
Globally, the optimal limit for the ratio between local and imported food (optimal maximum for imports) is 20%. However, overall, Georgia imports more than 70% of its food, making self-sufficiency on average around 30% and for certain food products even lower. According to “Geostat” data, the self-sufficiency coefficient for 2013 was: vegetables – 75%, beef 39%, pork – 41%, poultry – 18%. In addition, imported sources are not diversified, creating considerable dependency on agents with commercial interests and fluctuating market prices; due to the volatility of world prices on food products, Georgia’s dependence on imports further increases food security risks as there are no state reserves or supplies to ensure food security in the face of global price fluctuations.
Despite its physical presence, food is often unaffordable for many households. Recent price hikes further increase the number of household that find food unaffordable. The latest statistics revealed that on average Georgian residents spend more than half of their income (54%) on food. The Diet of Georgian population is typically characterised by high consumption of bread and bread products, which is up to twice as much as the recommended physiological norm. Due to poor purchasing power, consumers substitute bread for their main daily portion of energetic value. Therefore, in Georgia, 62% of the food energy value comes from pastry foodstuffs (in developed countries the pastry food consumption does not exceed 15%).
Access to food is further reduced by high unemployment rates and poor infrastructure. Georgian subsistence farming is characterized by land fragmentation and low fertility, which inhibits rural development and achieving stable food security. Agriculture in Georgia predominantly consists of small-scale farmers, most of which are operating barely at subsistence level.
Integral part of food security is also the quality of food available, balanced energy value and availability of micronutrients necessary for healthy development of the human body.
According to the recent findings, Georgia is characterized by low to medium dietary diversity, which means that on average Georgians can afford 5 food groups out of the recommended 10 food groups. Regardless, the Georgian population on average spends more than 50% of their disposable income on food. The lack of access to diversified and nutritious food increases the risk of non communicable diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and cancer. Especially grave are the results among children, who have lack of access to nutritious and diversified food at the early years of their life. The FAO and UNICEF have estimated stunting at 10% in Georgia as a result of poor nutrition.
Adequate food security and nutrition status is both a human right and a matter of dignity for the general public. In order to tackle these issues on an institutional level, the Ministry of Agriculture of Georgia has taken important steps in raising the profile of food security. The agricultural strategy 2020 separately focuses on food security, which recognizes the government’s responsibility in managing food security system in Georgia. As a follow-up, the MoA has elaborated 20 basic recommendations on food security and nutrition, along with the draft law on food security which further reinforced government’s commitment towards these issues.
 It includes: staples, vegetables, plant/animal oil, milk/dairy products and roots.
 It includes: staples, vegetables, plant/animal oil, milk/dairy products, roots, fish, meat, fruit, nuts