The domestic fruit juices and refreshments sector is expected to grow by 5.2 percent year-on-year in 2004, said a study released yesterday by privately run business research firm ICAP. Also, competition in the sector is expected to intensify next year, as is the industry’s concentration degree, the report said. It added that consumption patterns in the sector would be positively influenced by the staging of the Olympic Games in Greece and the increased tourism to be generated by the event, as well as a consumer swing toward health-oriented products. The local fruit juices and refreshments market consists of a limited number of large and medium-sized firms that have developed extensive distribution networks throughout the country and support their products with significant outlays on advertising campaigns. The sector’s intensifying rivalry is apparent at retail outlets, where competing producers are implementing increasingly aggressive policies for advantageous shelf positioning, the study said. Smaller domestic producers, who enjoy product familiarity and consumer preference, prefer skipping the wholesale market and selling directly to retailers, the study showed. A lack of financing to expand distribution networks and increase advertising were the two main factors that maintained such business practices among smaller firms, the study showed. Between 1990 and 2002, local production of fruit juices grew at an annual rate of 5.6 percent while local consumption grew at a slightly smaller average rate of 5.2 percent over the same period. Imported juices, primarily from Cyprus, as well as exports, mostly to Albania, Bulgaria, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), and Cyprus, remained at low levels during the aforementioned time period, the ICAP study said. There were also signs of a shift toward traditional local refreshments, such as visinada, the study added.