Recent protests by striking civil servantsin Greece may remind some of similar manifestations in past years, but thefallout from these incidents has not impacted trade within the country likeprevious strikes did.
“We don't really feel an impact from thestrikes,” said George Frangistas from Gefra. “There have been a couple ofreactions from growers and from transport companies, but in reality, there havebeen no side effects.” Frangistas was referring to the road blocks andsometimes violent altercations that sprang up on Greece's roads in previousyears. But, unlike in past years, where manifestations seriously hampered thetransport of fresh produce within the country, this year's activities have notbeen major. But that's not to say growers and shippers haven't had other issuesto deal with.
“Greece is in dire straits,” saidFrangista. “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 moraleprobably has to do with poor economic conditions, which, in turn, have made forlow domestic demand for fresh produce. In fact, Frangista noted that mostproduce that's grown in Greece heads directly for the export market because ofsluggish demand at home.
“Our company is 100 percent exports, sowe're not affected by the domestic situation,” said Frangista. “We focus on thebig European supermarkets, so we haven't felt the effects of the crisis.” Buthe also warned that the export market has significant barriers to entry forthose wishing to escape bad conditions at home. While there might be produceavailable in Greece, it's hard to set up the packing houses and traderelationships necessary to successfully export goods. Even if those things canbe attained, Frangista noted that Europe can be a tough market to crack becauseof the relatively few large clients.
“Most retailers go with central buying, sothere are only about 10 supermarket groups, so you're really trying to sell tothe same ten people all over Europe,” said Frangista. “They will listen to usabout citrus, because we are experts in citrus, but they won't buy kiwis fromus, 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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