OPINION

Adjusting goods to demand trends

The problems dogging the farmers of the group of lemon groves known as Lemonodassos on the Peloponnesian coast of Trizinia are a painful reminder of the troubles facing Greece’s primary produce sector. The sector is sustained thanks to repeated injections of European Union funding but, at some point, it will have to be exposed to the real world of free market business. Greece, a country with small agricultural holdings, cannot compete against states that have vast farms and mass production. The economies of scale operating in more advanced countries guarantee that Greek products will always be relatively more expensive in international markets. As a result, any attempt to make our fresh and unprocessed goods competitive is doomed to fail. Olive oil is the only local product that is produced in quantities big enough for export, but unlike the Italians, who benefit hugely from the added value of standardizing and producing alternative products, we don’t take advantage of this. Greece’s drawback of having relatively small-scale production can be turned into an advantage if local farmers add different types of added value to their product selection. Past experience from the wine market, mastic from Chios and Kozani saffron shows that the shrewd processing and distribution of a product can work wonders and allow even small farms to be profitable so long as there are modern production and marketing methods. The impending deregulation of farm products and the gradual reduction in European subsidies should spur the Greek government and farmers into action. The Greek countryside is by no means doomed. It is in a position to create wealth provided that we realize that the world has changed and that, as a result, so has consumer demand. People want the same products but in different form or packaging. We need to hammer out alternative strategies and responsibility for this lies with the state as well as the farmers.