As Coronavirus measures forced to close the border, Georgian seasonal tea laborers are left with no income this spring. Around 50 thousand Georgian laborers arrive in Turkey every year for three harvesting seasons to pick tea taking home more than 150 million dollars annually.
32 years old Huseyin Adeishvili has been going to Turkey every summer with his brother and father to work in Turkey’s growing tea farms since 2014. Picking tea in Turkey is the only substantial income his family has since they lack jobs in Georgia. Around 50 thousand seasonal laborers like Huseyin mostly from Adjara region of Georgia arrive in Turkey every year to harvest tea. According to reports in Turkey, Georgian laborers take home 150 million dollars annually. Tens of thousand of families in Georgia’s northwest Adjara region almost entirely live on this seasonal income from Turkey.
This year, however, as border crossings are prohibited between Turkey and Georgia as part of the coronavirus measures, laborers are about to lose their only steady annual income. This will hurt not just the laborers but also the whole Georgian economy. Georgia’s gross domestic product was 17 billion dollars in 2018, according to World Bank.
Tea is harvested three times a year which are spread in spring, summer and fall season. Already missing the spring harvesting season, Georgian laborers are now hoping that the novel virus would beaten for good before the summer picking season.
Border closing also rings some alarm bells for Turkey’s growing tea industry as the energy-intensive labor has long become unappealing to Turkish youth whom seek better lives as Turkish economy has blossomed in the past decade. Lack of local workers in Turkey may impact Turkey’s tea output this year, according to the experts in the region. Local Turkish administrations have announced some measures to make sure harvesting season is completed without interruption despite strict coronavirus measures in the country.
Turkey’s consumes 3,5 kilogram tea per person annually making it by far the most favorite hot drink in the country. Turkey is world’s fifth biggest tea producer after China, India, Kenya and Sri Lanka.