Wine producers worried about rise in imports

Greece’s wine producers are concerned that the large increase of wine imports and a very small rise in exports threaten the future of their industry. Christos Markou, president of the Central Union of Wine Producing Cooperatives of Greece, stressed these fears during the union’s 42nd annual meeting yesterday, which was attended by the Agricultural Development Minister Savvas Tsitouridis. The minister called on all those involved in the wine industry to cooperate in order to promote Greek wine on the international markets as a way to solve the problem. Wine imports to Greece increased by 264 percent in 2003, while exports increased by only 8 percent. In comparison, 31.8 percent of all wine produced in France was exported, with export percentages for Germany, Italy, Portugal and Spain amounting to 32.7, 28.9, 41.5 and 32.2, respectively. At the same time, it was noted that only 12 percent of the total of 30,600,000 liters of wine imported to Greece last year were bottled, meaning that large quantities of bulk imports found their way to the local market, under unknown circumstances, that is, either being sold as unidentified «house wine» or being bottled here. In addition, while cooperatives produce 65 percent of Greek wine, only 25 producers bring it to the market bottled with recognized commercial names. In comparison, in most European Union wine-producing countries, cooperatives bottle their wines at much higher rates. According to Tsitouridis, basic problems to be tackled in order to improve prospects for Greek wine include the need to increase the percentage of wine that is bottled, as well as to decrease imports and increase exports. He noted that all concerned parties will soon be called upon to cooperate in promoting Greek wine. «We do not have time or money to spare, and cannot allow partial, hasty and untested programs for the promotion and advertisement of Greek wine, with the government never taking care to measure their effectiveness. Up to now, we simply got to spend too much money with the situation getting worse,» Tsitouridis declared. The minister also announced that the program for the reorganization of vineyards will continue. The ministry will assist grape and wine producers in their efforts to modernize wine-making units and help create new units, he said. Tsitouridis also referred to his ministry’s commitment to keep providing subsidies and announced his intention to draft laws regulating the quality of wine and the commercial presentation and standardization of the product.