Exporters struggle with odds

Despite marketing difficulties, the government’s successful policies will help Greek exports to continue their upward trend this year and rise to about 19 billion euros, from 16.7 billion in 2006, assuming that the performance of the first quarter is maintained, officials said yesterday. «The rise in exports is a reward for the emphasis placed in economic policy on exports and economic diplomacy, and to the outward-looking attributes of the economy in general, which has the consent of all interested parties. It is also due to the tireless efforts of export businesses struggling to place Greek products throughout the world,» said the president of the Panhellenic Exporters’ Association (PSE), Christina Sakellaridi. She cited the main problem of export policy as the limitations imposed by the small size of exporting businesses, which inhibits the assumption of promotion initiatives for the products exported. As a result, she added, the further growth of exports requires an integrated strategy, beginning at the production level, that is, in the supply of competitive products and continuing with the finished products distribution and promotion abroad. The implementation of such an integrated policy would require, as Sakellaridi proposed, the setting up of financial tools such as a foundation for development funding and a business venture fund to encourage the production of new, competitive products. Also needed are programs to promote specific products (such as olive oil) and the training of staff in export businesses and public services. Other PSE officials noted the impressive penetration of Greek products into the markets of Southeastern Europe in recent years, as well as improvements in quality and expansion into emerging economies. The value of Greek exports has risen steadily from -10.94 billion in 2002 but remains among the lowest in the eurozone. According to data presented at an event on the marketing and prospects of Greek farm products, organized by the Agricultural Development Ministry on Tuesday, imports of farm products outweigh Greek farm exports. The main reasons cited were that Greek agriculture has not yet turned to products of Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), for which demand is rising, while Greece is also not taking full advantage of European Union promotion programs. Farm products Greek exports continued rising in 2005 and 2006 but so did imports, while certain domestic sectors face serious marketing problems. «Despite the sector’s copious and costly efforts toward upgrading the image of Greek wine and conquering market shares in Europe and elsewhere, we see our exports steadily falling,» said the president of National Intervocational Vine and Wine Organization (EDOAO), Yiannis Boutaris. Italy is way ahead in implementing European Union programs for the promotion of farm products, with 47, France is second with 23, followed by Germany and the Netherlands, while Greece is in seventh position with 11. EDOAO said last week it had agreed in St Petersburg to soon sign a memorandum of cooperation with Russia’s Wine and Spirits Distributors’ Union for the promotion of Greek wines in that country.

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