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Agricultural crops are being abandoned

05 April 2014 / 15:04:37  GRReporter
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The implementation of the common agricultural policy of Europe in Greece over the past three decades has had a drastic impact on the agricultural economy of the country.

Farmers have resorted to subsidized products, abandoning even traditional Greek cultures, such as legumes or forage crops, and as a result, the food needs of the population are being covered by the increase in imports. In Thessaly, for example, large areas with almond trees have been uprooted and planted with cotton, the cultivation of which has increased dramatically after 1981 because of the high subsidy which reaches three times the commercial value of the product.

"The implementation of the common agricultural policy in Greece has had an impact on the structure of agricultural production, leading to delays in the supply of food in the country and higher imports. At the same time, the issue of product quality is more inferior and the land used for agriculture lacks spatial planning," said agronomist Stamatis Sekliziotis, who is assistant to the agricultural attaché at the American embassy.

Legumes have been ''abandoned''

Legume crops which are traditionally grown in Greece are gradually being abandoned, since their cultivation is not subsidized by the EU. Thus, 12,586 tonnes of lentils were produced in 1961, and 8,451 tonnes in 1981, while the production fell to 2,856 tonnes in 2011. The situation with chickpeas is similar - 13,365 tonnes were produced in 1961 and 12,694 tonnes in 1981, compared to 2,200 tonnes in 2011. For the preparation of traditional Greek recipes, legume crops are being imported halfway across the world - beans from China, "mavromatika" beans from Madagascar and Peru, lentils from Canada, chickpeas from Mexico and Turkey, as well as broad beans from Syria.

Other traditional Greek products - halva and tahini - are produced mainly from imported sesame. Only 33 tonnes of Greek sesame were produced in 2011, compared to 1961 and 1981, when the production reached 6,374 tonnes and 1,572 tonnes, respectively.

The production of nuts is also slowly decreasing, since almonds, peanuts, pistachios and other nuts are not covered by EU subsidies. Therefore, they are imported from California, Georgia or Moldova today, although walnuts are the only culture of this group, which has marked a growing rise in recent years.

"We import a large percentage of forage crops, mainly soybeans, and this is a big problem. If we consider the fact that forage accounts for 80% of the price of meat, we will understand what all these imports mean for our stock-breeding," emphasized Sekliziotis. Sorghum is one of the main forage crops. Only 84 tonnes were produced in 2011, compared to 1,198 tonnes in 1981 and 8,775 tonnes in 1961. "At the same time, while there is high demand for dried fruits across the world, we have very little production, allowing Turkey to be a leader," added the agronomist.

The production of lemons is decreasing

The production of lemons has also marked a very large decline, which amounted to 216,874 tonnes in 1981 and fell to 70,314 tonnes in 2011. Of course, the needs are covered by imports. The total production of citrus in Greece has decreased significantly (997,205 tonnes in 1981 against 938,866 tonnes in 2011), but as Sekliziotis explained, the varieties of oranges which are grown affect mainly the internal market and are not suitable for export.

On the other hand, tomato production has increased significantly. But these are mainly industrial quantities of tomatoes, which are also subsidized. Sekliziotis stressed that there are areas with different climates in Greece and the country could resemble a mosaic of various crops, but only if someone bothered to take care of this.

The young are resorting to farming

Increased interest in agricultural production has been noticed in recent years, mainly on the part of young people looking for a way out of the economic crisis.

A survey of the Ministry of Agriculture showed that 19.3% of respondents have taken concrete steps in order to move from big cities in the country.

43.5% of those who are planning to leave Athens and Thessaloniki have a university degree, 25.9% have a master's degree and 4.1% have a doctoral degree.

Nearly half (47.6%) of those who are planning relocation would like to work in agriculture, but not only in production but also in the whole chain - up to the packaging and selling of products.

Olives and olive oil are the first choice, probably because of the large percentage of urban residents who own olive trees. The percentage of people who are interested in organic crops is significant.

Tags: Greek agriculture traditional cultures subsidies
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