NEWS

Farmers promised land help

The government intends to cut bureaucracy, facilitate land sales and embark on a land redistribution program to boost Greece’s stuttering agricultural sector, Savvas Tsitouridis, minister for agricultural development and food, announced after Cabinet discussions yesterday. «The size and structure of agricultural production is a very important factor for rural development and for viable and competitive Greek agriculture,» said Tsitouridis. Although farming remains one of Greece’s biggest industries, its share of the country’s gross domestic product has been dropping in recent years – in 1999, it was around 8 percent, while this year it is expected to drop to below 7 percent. Three main proposals to revive agriculture were put forward at yesterday’s Cabinet meeting. First, the government will instigate a major land redistribution program which it hopes will see 30,000 hectares of land redistributed each year as opposed to the 7,000 hectares it claims are currently redistributed annually. The government will also look at reforming the structure and role of Agrogi, a limited liability company operating under the supervision of the Agricultural Development Ministry, so that it can create an agricultural land registry and suggest ways in which the land can be best used. Tsitouridis said the government was examining ways to cut bureaucracy for farmers and suggested tax incentives might also be implemented. «We are investigating and evaluating the current incentives – tax and others – so that new farmers can obtain and expand land,» said Tsitouridis. The agricultural development minister, though, ruled out any possibility of the government making changes to forestation laws.