TBILISI, DFWatch – President Mikheil Saakashvili says his first priority is the development of agriculture.

Manana Manjgaladze, the president’s spokesperson, said this at a briefing Tuesday.

Georgia is considered to be an agricultural country. But the government is often criticize for not paying enough attention to the development of agriculture.

The government’s economic policy team, chaired by Kakha Bendukidze, focused on trying to introduce a libertarianism, and argued that agriculture is not profitable; so it is not advisable to waste money on this sphere.

Secretary of Georgia’s National Security Council, Giga Bokeria, said in a speech to parliament July 13 2007 that agriculture is only focused on in non-developed and low level countries and he doesn’t want Georgia to be considered a low level country.

Opponents still criticize the government for this policy, despite the fact that the policy has somewhat changed. But official data indicate that agriculture’s share of GDP is very low.

Accordint to the National Statistics Department, GDP in 2011 was USD 14 370.4 million. Agriculture only accounted for 9.3 percent of this. In 2006, agriculture’s share was 12.8 percent, 10.7 percent in 2007, 9.4 percent was in 2008 and 2009, and 8.4 percent in 2010.

Manjgaladze says most of the president’s recent activity have been agriculture projects. As examples, she mentioned visits to the people in Shida Kartli and Samegrelo.

“The goal of these measures is that our farmers, who are still very poor, will get introduced to novelties in this sphere,” Manjgaladze said.

An important novelty this year is a service center for farmers, she adds. This already started functioning several weeks ago in the regions. There are laboratories together with mechanical equipment.

“Such centers are functioning in Zestaponi, Abasha, Gurjaani, Marneuli, Akhaltsikhe, Kareli. There are centers with agriculture technique. These are in Samtredia, Kaspi, Ozurgeti, Dedoplistskaro, Ambrolauri and Bolnisi.”

She says it is possible to implement 42 kinds of agricultural mechanization. Farmers are being given free consultations from agronomists. They can make soil analysis in laboratories for a low price and buy pesticides.

“Those are centers where along with equipment farmers can get introduced to novelties, receive advice and consultations and recommendations about how they can better take care of farm lands.”

The government’s main goal is to equip centers with more tractors and other technology and provide access to them.