Greek organic farming grows

Only about 0.9 percent of Greek arable land is used for organic farming. This is one of the lowest rates in Europe, although average annual growth since 1993 has been 51.4 percent and the number of organic farmers has since risen 43.9 percent, according to a study by business research firm ICAP. The top prefectures in terms of arable land for organic farming are Laconia, Aetoloacarnania, Halkidiki, Lesvos and Achaia. Olive trees account for 53.5 percent of total organically cultivated land, followed by vines for wine production with 7.9 percent, wheat 4.8 percent, barley 3.8 percent and citrus fruit 3.7 percent. The total retail market value of domestic organic foodstuffs was estimated at 18.5 million euros in 2002 and is projected to grow by 10 percent this year. Domestic consumption of organic olive oil grew at an average annual rate of 16 percent between 1999 and 2002, when 71.5 percent of production was exported. Quantities of organically produced wine grew at an average annual rate of 53.7 percent in the same period; only 19.5 percent was exported in 2002. Separately, the National Food Control Agency (EFET) is drawing up a program of controls for honey production, aimed at identifying all possible dangers related to adulteration and the presence of pesticides and antibiotics. EFET said the high quality of Greek honey is not in dispute.