Greece exported 50.38 tons of olive oil in the first half of the year for 214.9 million euros. This means it sold olive oil to other countries at 4.2 euros per kilo, while the cheapest brand of olive oil at local supermarkets costs at least 8-8.5 euros per liter (with a liter of olive oil weighing 915 grams).
The reason top-quality Greek olive oil is exported at half the price it retails for in Greece is that most comprises bulk quantities heading to Italy, where the Italians bottle it and hold on to its added value.
This is not the only example showing that while Greece has increased its exports in recent years, these (excluding fuel) mainly concern nonstandardized commodities and raw materials. This translates into mainly low-value exports.
Not only do Greek enterprises – and the economy in general – miss out on revenues, but the absence of investment in standardization, and the deindustrialization observed since the 1980s have forced Greece to import many finished goods made using raw materials that originally came from Greece.
Another example is cotton, which is among the top 10 exported commodities in Greece: In the first half of 2017 unprocessed cotton exports came to 147.4 million euros. Cotton exports in 2016 totaled 325.36 million, while 1.53 billion euros was spent on clothing imports and 659.8 million on textile imports.
Another key Greek export is fish, whose value in the first six months of 2017 amounted to 254.6 million euros. Yet it is only recently that Greek fish farming companies started standardizing their products for retail, while they are expected to start production of ready-to-cook fish-based meals.
It is hard to assess how much Greek exports and the economy could benefit from selling products with greater added value to foreign markets. However, foreign organizations estimate that Greek exports, after some necessary reforms, could rise up to 30 percent or 16 billion euros per year. If Greece manages to match European Union export rates it could fetch an extra 20 billion euros into state coffers every year.
“Special care should be given to bolstering domestic output, in the manufacturing of agricultural and industrial products via incentives for attracting foreign investments and modernizing existing ones,” the head of the Panhellenic Exporters Association, Christina Sakellaridi, commented.