Organic agriculture in Greece

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(c) Marie-Chiara Tort

According to the Pilot Project ‘’Organic agriculture in European countries-Training on European standards for Ecological agricultural production – EcoJob – AP’’ organic agriculture in Greece has its roots in the ecological movement at the beginning of the 1980s. The first organic farmers were mostly amateurs who experimented with different organic cultivation methods, e.g. according to Steiner, Fukuoka and others.

The first organic production in Greece began in 1982 in Aigialeia when a small group of local farmers began the production of organic Corinthian grapes with the intent to export them to Holland. A consultant for organic agriculture working in cooperation with the Dutch certification organisation Skal laid the basis for the conversion of some farms in Aegio, a region between Patras and Korinthos. The organic farming project of the EAS Aigialeias is still active today, with over 500 producers involved in the farming of grapes, olives, and citrus fruit. From 1986 onward, a German firm supported the production of organic olives and olive oil for export. The first organic olive production began in Mani in the mid-1990s.  During the 1980s, foreign regulatory bodies, (Skal, Soil Association and Naturland), controlled Greek organic farms, as such infrastructure did not yet exist in Greece. During that time, the Greek market was focused on olive oil, olives, citrus, wine, and grain. There is no official data on organic agriculture for the period from 1982 to 1992. According to estimates, there were about 150 producers cultivating a total area of 200 hectares. The major change was brought about with the application of EU-Regulation 2092/91, in 1993 in the country, while a second expansion took place after the adoption of EU-Regulation 2078/92 in 1996 in the country. Among other things, the Regulation calls for giving subsidies in order to support organic agriculture. This incentive is credited with nearly doubling the organically cultivated land in less than a year. Afterwards the number of organic farmers and the corresponding cultivated areas continually increased.[i]

According to the data’s of the Greek Ministry of Rural Development and Food the organic agriculture area is 1.213.050,98 acres. The main regions are: West Greece 4.464 units, Peloponisos 3.834 units and Thessaly 3.365 units. Dominant organic farming for Greece remains the cultivation of olive 519368.315 acres Cereals (wheat barley oats, maize, rise etc) with 267581.9 and straw-producing plants (annuals, perennials, pasture) with 161975 acres.[ii] The sector is declining during the last 2 years, because consumers are turning to cheap products, due to the economic crisis, which has significantly reduced their purchasing power .According to the latest data, the market for organic products in Greece is currently estimated at 93 million, while two years ago amounted to 100 million Euros. The reluctance of consumers reflected by the fact that sales of organic is highly reduced in chains of supermarkets, which two years ago, reflecting 60% of the total annual turnover of the market.[iii]

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