NEWS

Organic farmers meet

THESSALONIKI – Krya Vrysi, Yiannitsa, in the prefecture of Pella, has entered the age of European organic farming. From March 28 to 30, the European Meeting of the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements (IFOAM) is to be held there, attended by representatives of all European Union member states, to discuss the development of and prospects for organic farming. Krya Vrysi was chosen because, according to Socrates Zambetoglou, representing the organic accreditation organization DIO which is organizing the meeting, Central Macedonia is the center of farming production for the whole of northern Greece, and is the testing ground for major initiatives in organic farming and livestock breeding. Krya Vrysi is also the home of Greece’s first Information Center on Organic Farming, which opened a few months ago. At a recent International Food and Drink Fair, data were presented indicating a 10 percent increase in the number of organic farmers, even in prefectures where there had been none before. IFOAM’s EU group is one of its regional departments. IFOAM has 760 members including producer and consumer groups, research and university foundations and accreditation organizations, and is active in 200 countries. In comparison with other European countries, Greece still lags behind with regard to its percentage of land being cultivated organically, with not more than 1 percent of its farmland (about 32,000 hectares) being farmed according to organic principles, including land devoted to the cultivation of animal fodder. What is encouraging is that within two years the number of organic livestock breeders has doubled, while organic farmers are overwhelmingly young people and those who are new to the industry. Ten prefectures account for 64 percent of the country’s organic farming, led by Laconia, Lesvos and Achaia, as measured by number of hectares under cultivation. Olives are at the top of the list of organically grown crops (55 percent), followed by field crops (21 percent) and vineyards (10 percent). Most livestock raised organically is in Thessaly. DIO alone monitors and accredits products from farms around the country with a total of about 1,000 head of cattle, 42,000 sheep and goats, 600 pigs, 52,000 head of poultry birds, 1,000 beehives, as well as 30 imported bison. The trade in organic products faces problems of distribution, given the small market for these products, higher prices compared to those of conventional products, the availability of meat, and in processing. The need to overcome problems such as these has led to the first cooperatives in the sector. According to Stefanos Syrlakis, who represents accredited stores in Thessaloniki, consumers in northern Greece who are familiar with organic products prefer fruit and vegetables, followed by dairy products. There is also a demand for meat from animals raised with organic principles. IFOAM meeting This is the first time IFOAM’s EU regional group has held a meeting in Greece, and it will focus on a sustainable agricultural policy for Europe, with proposals for the review of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, due to start this year. IFOAM sees the review of the CAP, originally set up to achieve food self-sufficiency in postwar Europe by promoting industrial inputs and production systems, as an opportunity to begin an overall reconsideration of European farming, given the surplus production, environmental pollution and unsustainable resource use which result from those industrial-based systems. IFOAM believes sustainability, rather than productivity increase, should become the new primary objective of the CAP. Proposals will also be made on how to redesign the CAP, a new and more ambitious set of minimum conditions for general direct payments – a «CAP standard» – and a new price policy.