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Low prices, a difficulty for Greek potato producers
Greek potato producers, who can grow potatoes almost year round thanks to the country's favourable climatic conditions, are suffering the impact of low incomes due to the introduction of cheap products from third countries, which combined with the fall in demand, is resulting in stifling conditions.

The vice president of the Agricultural Cooperative Kalamata, Giorgos Douvas, spoke to insider.gr about the current pressures on the Greek product, which have become particularly intense with the growing increase in the imports from third countries such as Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia, etc. "We have held talks with representatives of the Ministry and some progress has been made towards the protection of the domestic production and distribution. Imports are out of control and are pushing domestic prices down. A trader in Athens can sell 1,000 bags of Egyptian potatoes a day, while we cannot allocate 5% of our production."

Mr Douvas explains that the reason for this "lack of demand" for high quality domestic agricultural products, such as potatoes of Messinia, is their high price. Traders, who are also hit by large liquidity problems, prefer to buy potatoes from third countries, as those suppliers are cheaper and offer them convenient payment facilities. Consumers, for their part, are not always "trained" to distinguish Greek products from imports, which often (as in the case of potatoes) may have a lower price than the imported.

Regarding exports, the main destination countries are the Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic; however, the increased cost of production and the illegal naturalisations have led to a decline in exports which is making the product's cultivation unsustainable in many areas.

Mr Douvas affirms that 50 cents would be a good price for the producer, given the growing expenses, which amount to about 1,700 Euro per hectare during the harvest. A key challenge is to stabilise the price (which has fallen to between 35 and 40 cents).

Lastly, another negative factor for domestic producers is the lack of a single body, such as a producer group. Mr Douvas noted that, in the specific case of potatoes, there is no equivalent recognised body, which makes it very difficult to defend the interests of producers or to allow potato farmers to operate more collectively.