Migrants have revived ailing Greek agriculture

Migrants have saved Greek farming from collapse over the last 10 years, providing it with cheap labor but also a much-needed injection of new blood who took on jobs that young Greeks were unwilling to do, according to a new report by the Agricultural University of Athens (AUA). A third of people working in intensive farming in Greece are foreigners, according to the AUA, while workers hired on a daily basis to carry out manual labor in the agricultural sector are almost exclusively migrants. According to data, 75 percent of farm workers making a daily wage are Albanians, although there are some regional variations with migrants from the former Soviet Union having a greater presence on Crete and Romanians and Bulgarians working in greater numbers in central Greece. Asian migrants, particularly from India and Pakistan, tend to be mostly involved in intensive farming and the breeding of livestock. «The role of migrants in the survival of the Greek countryside is starting to be accepted,» Professor Haralambos Kassimis, one of the authors of the report, told Sunday’s Kathimerini. «They are the ones who support the elderly, look after the houses, gather the olives. They are helping to maintain a way of life.» The AUA’s study found that migrants had helped to make the farming of many crops more productive, while providing farmers with the necessary manpower to upgrade their methods. Migrants have also helped small producers to survive competition from the bigger players in the market. In many cases, landowners have been able to rent out property to migrants in return for a share of the profits from the crops that are sold. Kassimis said research showed that some 70 percent of people living in the countryside recognized the positive impact that migrants have had on their lives. He said the elderly were the most appreciative of what foreigners have offered. «This is because migrants support the elderly who have been left on their own in many agricultural areas,» said Kassimis. «The elderly have also experienced poverty and deprivation, unlike many younger people.» The AUA found that migrants working in non-intensive farming are usually assigned the most arduous tasks, allowing Greeks to move on to jobs in the sector that involve less manual labor or to move away from farming completely. This has had a negative effect as well, the academics discovered, as some farmers complained that it had made many Greeks lazy.