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Greek companies use EU programs to improve market position

The Greek kiwi season has recently finished. According to the Greek company Zeus, it was a successful year for Greek kiwis, with kiwis finding their way to key markets like India, the US, UK and Romania. “We’ve managed to increase our sales by 9% to 10%,” says Christina Manossis of Zeus. “We’ve been increasing our turnover every year. We’re just a small business, but we’ve managed a turnover of €7.6 million.”

According to Manossis, there is still a lot of work to be done. “We’re working on a five year operational program and we’re applying for investments in September. Right now, we pretty much find ourselves on a crossroad. Are we going to stay the way we are, or are we going to grow bigger? If we choose for expansion, we will need to invest in new technology like sorting machines with the aid of EU funding.”

One of the reasons for expansion is that the total acreage in Greece has increased. This means that in the next two to three years, the total production will increase as well. In other words, Zeus has to scale up its current facilities in order to process over 7,000 tons of fruit. “We’re going to need new rooms for cold storage, new sorting machines and bigger packing facilities. We’ve also invested in new kiwi varieties like gold and green kiwis. Research and development is a long term investment. We’re still in the research phase and haven’t yet begun with planting.”

90% of the acreage of Zeus is concentrated in the Greek region of Pieria, which has an ideal soil and climate for growing fruit like kiwis and grapes.

As Greece is growing in importance as a fruit supplier, there is an increasing amount of domestic competition. “Competing against other companies can be hard, as the structure for trade isn’t always easy to understand. For instance, our company is geared towards a quality driven market instead of a market that emphasizes pricing. The kiwis that we produce need to meet certain criteria, which are very strict. We can’t easily separate our kiwis in order to adjust the quality of these to the standards of other markets. This is the reason why we’re progressing with small movements in new markets like India.”

While Zeus strives to meet with the best criteria, the company has also discovered the importance of secondary markets alongside premium ones. Secondary markets are just as valid as premium markets. “This is why I mentioned Romania. We’ve only started working with Romania about two years ago. Since then, we’ve learned the benefits of supplying second rate produce. In order to grow the best in quality, you end up making costs that drive up the price range. Premium quality kiwis are too expensive for a secondary market like Romania, but at the same time a profit can be made with kiwis of slightly inferior quality.”

However, in order to achieve better results in the world market, Manossis thinks changes need to be made. “We believe that the only way to expand is through producers’ organizations. We’re behind Italy when it comes to export. When compared to Italy, we also have less organized cooperatives. We need to bring Greek farmers together. The lucrative opportunities for Greek agriculture have brought along more farmers, but we need to organize ourselves in order to become more professional.”

Manossis thinks that in order to compete on the world market, Greece needs to increase the amount of programs that it’s currently running. “It all starts with the producers’ organizations. We need to start all over again. If the legislation for cooperatives doesn’t change, nothing will.”

The total acreage in Greece is scattered all over the country. There are lots of small pieces of land, that all need their own logistics and their own facilities. If somehow these growing companies were all unified in a common structure, much profit could be made. “We produce 7,000 tons of kiwifruit through 280 small farms that we control. All those farms need their own transport and their own documentation. The costs for such a fragmented way of agriculture are high.”

The only way to apply any change is on a national level. “We’d need legislation and also cooperation of municipalities, the government and individual companies. It will take generations. If this was done 50 years ago, it would have been easier. But now, this should be done through proper legislation.”

In order to catch up with Italy, Greece also needs to find access to markets where Italy is already present, such as Brazil, and Taiwan. Companies like Zeus have been using funded programs to achieve this. There are currently 17 programs active, aimed at supplying innovative technologies, means for international promotion and correct farming methods.

“We’ve been working with programs that are financed by both the EU and the Greek government. In September, we’re going to start with a program that has been provided by the EU without involvement of the Greek government. We use these funds to make the Zeus brand more recognizable and more competitive.

“All in all, we’ve had a fantastic year. We saw much demand. Greek produce and ZEUS quality more particularly is gaining ground on the global market and is becoming well known for its taste,” concludes Christina Manossis.

For more information:

Christina Manossis
Zeus Kiwi - Greece
Tel. +30 2351 053559
Dir. Line +30 2351 045395
Fax. +30 2351 053901
Skype Christina.manossis
Email: christinam@zeuskiwi.gr

Publication date: 5/19/2017
Author: Yzza Ibrahim
Copyright: www.freshplaza.com


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