Organic Farming – “Plan B” for the Greek Crisis?

by Dimitris Sotiropoulos

(the article was published in Greek at – a portal for innovation and entrepreneurship, on June 6, 2012)

The Greek economy is in intensive care for more than 2.5 years and the prospect for recovery instead of approaching, is continuously getting away. Greece has been significantly “de-industrialized” during the last 20 years, therefore any hopes for economic growth have to be invested in sectors that are most likely to produce fast results. This means that we need to find quickly our way out of the recession or at least the means to halt it. One such sector is agriculture.

The agricultural sector in Greece is in a state of complete decomposition, lacking direction, research, education, with no few new technologies in place whilst scarce examples of good practice can be distinguished today and can only be attributed to the personal effort and ability of people who believed in agriculture and the production of food, who worked systematically, but had no help from the State.

To invest our hopes for economic growth, at least partially, in agriculture and the food sector is a rather good prospect but this is something that must be accompanied by a solid strategic plan and it should not be handled as an indefinite promise. Greece, as a Member of the European Union, enjoys political and financial support, access to state-of-the-art technologies and a free market for distributing its products. So the first step is to learn how to survive in a highly competitive environment like the European Market, where other countries are already far ahead from us. What should be done then, are we to follow the example of the quality of Italian products or try to imitate the Spanish aggressive penetration of the mainstream food markets? Today we have neither the means, the resources nor the time to develop the infrastructure needed to implement long-term development strategies for the agricultural industry. We should therefore place ourselves somewhere parallel to our  “competitors”. The market opportunity for Greek agricultural products lies on turning the spotlight on traditional small-scale production and developing a new marketing model that can communicate their quality, taste and uniqueness. We claim from generation to generation that we have the best products in the world and I strongly believe that in most cases it is so, but when it comes to exports we must find the way to convince the rest of the World.

“Quality products” is a rather vague term and it should be expressed  mainly through 2 pillars when it comes to development: In the first case we should focus on our “commonly accepted” unique products and these are no other than the protected products under European Law (Protected Designation of Origin and Protected Geographical Indication) while the other should refer to the production method and it should be no other than organic farming.

Our strategy for the awakening of the agricultural sector has to be based on the dipole “unique” – “organic”. The protected local products represent the uniqueness and organic farming guarantees hygiene and product safety, environmental protection, sustainable rural development and quality. Although in Greece the consumers’  economic strength is constantly decreasing, however in the rest of the World the situation is not the same. In the biggest Worldwide Markets like the US, central and northern Europe, organic products are gaining more ground. From 2007 to present, when officially the global economic crisis started, the organic market has been continuously growing, with the global turnover at the end of 2011 reaching 59 billion US dollars rising from 46 billion USD in the end of 2007.

For such a concerted shift in the production of agricultural products to get started – we are actually talking about a new «made in Greece» – all stakeholders have to work together and have to work efficiently. It is not enough for the Greek people to turn back to the farm due to unemployment if there is no plan and no direction. Organic farming and traditional local products could be our chance, as long as we believe in it …

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