Change for farm sector

Playing up the need for urgent reforms in the agricultural sector with an emphasis on quality over quantity and more rational crop selections, in compliance with European Union structures, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis yesterday said the government would soon table a new bill intended to boost the lot of Greek farmers. «For a long time now, Greek agricultural products have been gradually losing their position in international markets, and are being pushed out of the internal market,» Karamanlis said during a parliamentary debate initiated by Synaspismos Left Coalition. «In 2003, the trade deficit in farm products had reached 2 billion euros.» The PM admitted that, during the 25 years since Greece started to benefit from the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the country’s farming population has shrunk and their income still stands at half the EU average. «There must be a change in mentality to render the farm sector truly competitive,» he said. «The modern marketplace demands products with regulated labels of origin, that are standardized and attractively packaged. Products of high quality that are competitive.» A substantial chunk of Greece’s agricultural produce still consists of crops such as cotton and tobacco, which the EU is trying to phase out. Karamanlis said a draft bill to be tabled in Parliament will call for detailed regional studies on the local repercussions of the new CAP and ways of restructuring crop selections and of ensuring better produce distribution. The bill also foresees new information centers for farmers, reforms to the collective system, and measures to help young farmers and to boost exports. «Our country must adapt as well as possible, to forestall any prospect of EU subsidies being cut,» the prime minister said.

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