Lemon imports sour farmers

Lemon farmers on the Saronic island of Poros are seeing their trees wither away along with demand for their citrus fruits due to traders preferring imports, placing at risk their 166-year-old plantation. Producers told Kathimerini that the low price of lemons on the market is making the cultivation of the fruit non-profitable. A floor price of 0.30 euros per kilo would cover producers but traders are paying only about 0.14 euros, according to farmers. «Lemons have a very low price and it is not in the interest of producers to grow them,» said Nikos Nikolakopoulos, an employee at the local farming cooperative. «In the price you need to calculate wastage, the quantities that cannot be sold because they are not good,» he added. Titled Lemonodassos, or the «lemon forest,» the 60 hectares of farming land on the coast of the Peloponnese, separated from the island by a narrow strait, is considered one of the area’s major sights. The farmland, which is jointly owned by about 300 farmers, was initially planted in 1840. Demand has dropped for the produce despite it being grown without the use of pesticides. Local producers say that traders import lemons from abroad due to their improved appearance. «This year there was a shortage of lemons and traders still paid us only 0.15 euros per kilo,» said Giorgos Lemonidis, vice president of the Local Organization of Irrigation Improvements. «They import lemons from abroad and do not take ours at all,» he added. As a means of trying to help keep the community alive, officials said that farmers are being allowed to start building houses in the plantation area.