In what seemed to be a show of government’s efforts to ease recent price hikes on wheat and wheat-containing products, President Saakashvili held on August 31 a televised meeting with PM Nika Gilauri and Agriculture Minister Bakur Kvezereli saying that “threat of having higher price rise no longer exists.”
Bread price in Georgia went up by about 16.6% from 60 tetri to 70 tetri (about USD 0.38) last month and as the Agriculture Minister said price of some wheat-containing products increased by 30%, attributed to Russia wheat export ban and bad wheat harvest in the region.
Annual inflation was 7% in July, according to the National Bank of Georgia; no figures are yet available for August. PM Gilauri said at a government meeting on September 1, that inflation was triggered mainly by global food price inflation.
Last week President Saakashvili accompanied by the PM and TV cameras visited one of the supermarkets in Tbilisi asking for prices on some key food staples and instructing the government to work on diversification of sources of import.
At the August 31 meeting, Saakashvili said that “theoretically” Georgia could produce enough wheat to satisfy its internal market. According to the Agriculture Ministry, Georgia imports about 85% of its total wheat demand, mainly from Russia, as well as from Ukraine and Kazakhstan. The Agriculture Minister told the President that the goal was to increase share of locally grown wheat to at least 45% by 2013.
During the meeting Saakashvili also spoke by video link with head of Adjara Autnomous Republic's government, governors of Kvemo Kartli and Kakheti regions to discuss wheat farming in their respective regions, as well as with and Georgian ambassadors to Ukraine and the United States to discuss increase of import of wheat from those countries.
Saakashvili instructed the government to consider providing flour in aid to the most socially vulnerable families during the first months of next year.