NEWS

Inadequate inspection of fruit and vegetables damages exports

The Greek quality control system for exported fruit and vegetables is due for a change. The authorities want to avoid exports to Europe of produce containing unacceptably high traces of agricultural chemicals. The need for change became apparent after two serious cases where peaches from Crete and Macedonia were found to have traces of chemicals far in excess of the EU limit. Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis has written to the agriculture minister recommending that inspections be performed by agricultural experts who will bear not only the administrative but also the legal responsibility for the quality of exports. The famous Munchner Grossmarkt in Munich is the hub of wholesale fruit and vegetable deals in Europe. Anyone who fails to get accredited there will struggle to carve out their share of the European market. Eighteen months ago, Munich almost blacklisted Greek fruit exporters because of contaminated fruit, and it was not an isolated case. A few months later, Russian officials stopped 1,600 Greek trucks carrying peaches from Macedonia for inspections when one load was found to be tainted with pesticides. Stylianidis had to request the intervention of Yevgeny Primakov, chairman of the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, to prevent the rejection and return of thousands of tons of fruit and a future closed door for Greek exports. Trying to regain ground Greek producers lost in Germany ever since the war in Yugoslavia impeded their access to German markets, a delegation headed by Stylianidis went to Munich in December. Michael Kreps, managing director of the Munich market didn’t mince his words. «Cut down the agricultural chemicals in your products. We have zero tolerance for infringements of the standards,» he said. Greek producers fall short in other areas, often sending consignments late or with altered prices. In a decade when Munich market officials predict most produce on sale will soon be organic, there is no sign of Greek organic produce in Munich.