Aging Greek farmers, overdependent on subsidies, see incomes dwindle along with farming community

Greek agriculture seems to have practically no defenses against international competition, despite abundant funds that have flowed into the sector since Greece became a European Union member state. Rapid developments, EU enlargement, the revision of the Common Agricultural Policy, and negotiations at the World Trade Organization all demand an adaptability which Greek agriculture does not possess. On the contrary, chronic problems are being perpetuated as the incoming funds are misused or put to very different purposes from that of agricultural development – such as making producers dependent on political parties and the state mechanism. Agronomists have been transformed into office workers distributing EU subsidies. The farmers’ only advisers are agriculturalists who sell pesticides, and who naturally guide production in line with their own interests. Two types of farming have emerged, both problematic. One is in highland and disadvantaged areas, where it cannot ensure producers an adequate income, and the other is the intensive cultivation of the plains, which is oriented to monoculture and the heedless use of technology, and which has led producers to derive their income mainly from subsidies. Despite the diminishing number of farmers, the percentage of the population involved in farming in Greece is still high (16 percent) and farms are still scattered and small. The most serious problem is that farmers, an aging body with little education, have little chance of escaping from this situation. Efforts to educate farmers stalled when the state organization Dimitra failed to inform and train the rural population. This discouraging picture of Greek agriculture emerges from a study the Agriculture Ministry assigned to seven university professors. Their task was to pinpoint the problems which are to be discussed by all parties so as to formulate the Greek strategy for developing farming and the countryside up to 2013. But apart from expressing hopes and general views, major efforts and radical changes are needed if Greek agriculture is to make up for lost time.

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