Delays aim at boosting corn prices

Alexandros Kontos, deputy minister of agricultural development and food, is seeking to delay imports of corn shipments so that prices can rise in favor of local producers. The ministry has ordered additional public health measures to be taken concerning the importation of cereals, having already demanded comparable measures in August for wheat. Thus, corn imported from third countries, that is non-EU members, will be fastidiously inspected before becoming available on the Greek market. Domestic corn prices are extremely low at this juncture due to good crops this year in Europe as well as in other parts of the world. Prices currently range between 12 and 13 cents per kilogram compared with 15 cents last year. Besides the high quantities of corn produced this year, Kontos charged that the problem is the fault of the previous government, which had signed agreements allowing for large imports from western Balkan countries as well as from former Soviet Union countries, without considering the consequences for Greek producers. A meeting among producers, importers and merchants failed to produce results. Ministry circles noted yesterday that merchants are waiting for Serbian corn to become available within the next 15 days, believing that its price may fall to 7 cents per kilo. According to the ministry, circumstances call for the adoption of special measures in spite of the fact that Kontos is well aware that the decision to restrict wheat imports was criticized by the European Union and was denounced by exporting countries. A ministry announcement said that complaints made to the European Union had resulted in its «notifying the Greek authorities and demanding explanations.» According to the same announcement, countries affected, such as Canada, Ukraine and Russia, also notified the ministry of their concern and disapproval. Kontos insisted that «the problem, created within the Greek cereal market, will have to be solved in ways beneficial for Greek farmers, who are facing the consequences of policies applied by the previous government.»