A Foreign Field

A day in the life of a Punjabi farmer in Georgia

Ramandeep Singh Palhan bought 300 hectares of land in Georgia with the money he made selling one acre in Punjab.

RAMANDEEP SINGH PALHAN, a 42-year-old Punjabi farmer, drove through his fields on a misty February morning. As he steered his SUV through slush formed after the previous night’s rain, he pointed to his cultivation. “Here, all of this is wheat. And all that area there is garlic,” he said. Driving further north on his farmland, he added, “We also plan to farm vegetables like tomatoes and onions.”

Passersby, dressed in formal trousers and winter jackets, stared at Palhan, who, in his traditional white kurta-pyjama and an orange turban, stood out from his surroundings. Since May 2012, Palhan has lived in the Caucasian country of Georgia, thousands of miles away from Moga, his hometown in western Punjab. “I saw a newspaper advertisement that I could invest in Georgia,” he said. “I found out that it was very cheap. I made a few phone calls, packed my suitcase and came to Georgia to check the land here.”

Palhan is one among thousands of Indian farmers, most from Punjab, who have immigrated to Georgia since the beginning of 2012. Cheap land prices and favourable farming conditions have attracted Indian farmers and proved to be a lucrative business opportunity. A hectare of land in Georgia is available for as little as Rs 50,000. The same measure of land in Punjab would cost over a hundred times as much. In Palhan’s case, the money he raised from selling just one acre in India was enough for him to buy 300 hectares in Georgia. “The profits I register from these 300 hectares will far exceed my profits in India,” he said.

Gayatri Parameswaran  is a freelance journalist specialising in conflict, social justice and sexual health. She has reported from South Asia, the Middle East and the Caucasus.

Felix Gaedtke is a freelance multimedia journalist focusing on conflict, human rights, political and social issues. His work has taken him to different parts of Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

Keywords: Punjab migration foreigners Soviet Georgia agriculture