Recent Greek strikes not as bad as previous incidents
Recent protests by striking civil servants in Greece may remind some of similar manifestations in past years, but the fallout from these incidents has not impacted trade within the country like previous strikes did.
“We don’t really feel an impact from the strikes,” said George Frangistas from Gefra. “There have been a couple of reactions from growers and from transport companies, but in reality, there have been no side effects.” Frangistas was referring to the road blocks and sometimes violent altercations that sprang up on Greece’s roads in previous years. But, unlike in past years, where manifestations seriously hampered the transport of fresh produce within the country, this year’s activities have not been major. But that’s not to say growers and shippers haven’t had other issues to deal with.
“Greece is in dire straits,” said Frangista. “People are sad and depressed, so they don’t want to do anything, and I think that’s why nothing serious has happened at the moment.” Poor morale probably has to do with poor economic conditions, which, in turn, have made for low domestic demand for fresh produce. In fact, Frangista noted that most produce that’s grown in Greece heads directly for the export market because of sluggish demand at home.
“Our company is 100 percent exports, so we’re not affected by the domestic situation,” said Frangista. “We focus on the big European supermarkets, so we haven’t felt the effects of the crisis.” But he also warned that the export market has significant barriers to entry for those wishing to escape bad conditions at home. While there might be produce available in Greece, it’s hard to set up the packing houses and trade relationships necessary to successfully export goods. Even if those things can be attained, Frangista noted that Europe can be a tough market to crack because of the relatively few large clients.
“Most retailers go with central buying, so there are only about 10 supermarket groups, so you’re really trying to sell to the same ten people all over Europe,” said Frangista. “They will listen to us about citrus, because we are experts in citrus, but they won’t buy kiwis from us, for example, because they already have experts in kiwis they buy from. So, in the end, Europe is not so big a market.”
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Publication date: 3/14/2014