BUSINESS

Untapped potential in Greece’s food and agricultural sector

TANIA GEORGIOPOULOU

TAGS: Economy, Food

Greece’s agricultural and food sector could bring an additional 12.2 billion euros per year into the economy and create 200,000 new jobs if it was brought up to modern European Union standards, according to a study by the Financial Analysis Department of the National Bank of Greece that was published this week.

The sector in Greece benefits from the country’s climate, geography and wide variety of crops that grow here and has managed to withstand the pressure of the economic crisis. Still, it has not matched the achievements of its counterparts in other EU states and elsewhere, the study notes.

This is one of the main pillars of the Greek economy, accounting for 13 percent of the entire business domain in added value terms (compared to an EU average of 7 percent).

Significantly, the agricultural and food sector managed to maintain its sales at a stable level over the course of the crisis, against declines of up to 40 percent in other sectors, the study supervised by Jessie Voumvaki showed.

On the other hand, global demand for food and drinks has soared 160 percent and global exports have jumped by 210 percent in the last 20 years, while Greek food and agriculture products have lost international market share.

In contrast to other EU states, land productivity in Greece has been in decline, and there is huge untapped potential in the area of cooperatives when compared to other EU countries: In the bloc’s Mediterranean countries 42 percent of food sales are done through cooperatives, while the figure for the EU as a whole is 39 percent, against just 17 percent in Greece.

Therefore the study concludes that the key reforms required in the sector are the following:
- Increasing the percentage of Greek products sold under a label/brand from the current 40 percent, compared with 70 percent in Western Europe.
- The utilization of opportunities resulting from the reformed Common Agricultural Policy toward a more professional approach to agricultural production.
- Making agricultural cooperatives more business-orientated, with boards featuring producers, scientists and commercial officials.
- The promotion of Protected Designation of Origin products and the creation of synergies with sectors such as tourism for the best branding of Greek produce.

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