Led like lambs to the slaughter

We consumers have a selective relationship with globalization. We drink whiskey from Scotland, beer from Germany and Belgium, frozen fruit juice from Argentina; we eat pulses from Turkey, potatoes from Egypt, garlic from Chile, walnuts from California; we furnish our homes with chairs, tables and beds from Sweden, we drive cars from South Korea and we have a penchant for watching American films; but it seems that we prefer local products when it comes to TV serials, news bulletins and our Easter lamb on the spit. Buying a lamb from Romania or the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has become almost an anti-Greek act. Every year, morning news shows bombard us with debates about the rising price of Greek lamb in our cities’ meat markets. All shows defend the consumer and stockbreeder alike but rail against the scourge of profiteering. Every year, TV presenters ask what our psychological breaking point is: 10 euros per kilogram? 12 euros? And what does the average consumer do? Does he buy lamb from the village or the local butcher, does he scour the supermarket searching for bargains, or does he head down to Athens’s central Varvakeio meat market to do some research? None of the above. He, or she, sits in front of the TV, bemused at the never-ending arguments, and tries to discern the different sides, the alliances – to figure out who are the bad guys, who are the good guys and who is being ripped off – stockbreeders, wholesalers, meat merchants, consumers, all against everyone. What has actually happened? Did the stockbreeders slaughter too many lambs and force prices to drop? Or perhaps they should have slaughtered more lambs, and earlier in the year, to ensure that their supplies don’t run out? But protesting stockbreeders insist that they will not slaughter any more lambs. «Let them grow old and tough so they won’t sell,» a defiant breeder told a TV crew. But if only the problem was restricted to lambs. High prices are affecting all consumer products – not just meat but also fruit, cleaning products and many other basic goods. The price situation has become so illogical that bananas are now cheaper than apples, feta cheese sells at the same rate as beef, parsley and dill have shot up in price and a pair of leather shoes costs as much as a lamb and a half a goat. Who knows? Maybe in a few years we will no longer turn our noses up at Bulgarian lamb, but at Chinese lamb. Maybe we will end up buying our Easter lamb from one of those Chinese discount stores in central Athens and do our best to make it taste good.

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