Besides conventional products, Greece has a large share of organic acreage as well. “Greece has a fantastic climate for organic cultivation,” says Peter Abma of Lema, a Dutch fruit trading company. “The soil in, especially, the Peloponnesos region is very suitable for this. There, there are not only the well-known grapes, kiwis, and citrus; there is also small-scale farming of products such as avocados, pomegranates, goji berries, kakis, figs, melons, and strawberries.”
Lema is currently focusing on organic citrus and kiwi in particular. “We are getting the first kiwis from Greece in October and, since we store a large amount of these in cold storage, we can sell these until the end of June. This year we also sourced Soreli kiwis from Greece. These Sorelis have a short season of usually only four weeks, but this year we were able to lengthen this to eight.”
“Our citrus, including Navelinas, clementines, and lemons, came onto the Dutch market in November,” says Peter. Many consumers claim Greek clementines contain too many pips, which does not benefit sales. “That is not true. It has much more to do with the variety. There are more pips in the fruit that grow on the trees at the edge of the orchards. These are female fruits. Because, after all, new clementines have to come from somewhere."
"But, it is not that Greek clementines have more or fewer pips than clementines from other Southern European countries. The Greek growers are, in fact, keenly aware of their products’ flavor. If it does not taste good, they do not pick the fruit, but rather let it hang for a little longer. Then, you, as an importer, can jump up and down to get mandarins, for example, but you will not receive this fruit until it tastes genuinely good enough."
"That is also the reason why we sell organic products that come from Greece. They often taste better. And that is important. The number one purchasing argument for organic products is their health benefits. Their flavor is at number two. We must, therefore, ensure that consumers buy a tasty product, so they return for more. We see there is a rising demand for organic citrus in countries like Germany and the Netherlands,” Abma continues.
Soreli kiwis are only available for a short time from Greece
Peter’s prospects for this season are positive. “Due to weather conditions, Italy is having trouble with their kiwi numbers this year. Many Italian exporters are, therefore, buying Greek kiwis to supplement their shortages. Luckily our volumes were already fixed before the season started. We work closely with several growers in Greece. We also pack the product in Greece, again in collaboration with the farmers. We then bring full truckloads to the Netherlands. These good business relationships make for good conditions for transportation. Costs are certainly not higher than in Spain.”
Greece is still known as a country with certain traditions when it comes to fruit and vegetables. “Many innovative products, such as avocados and kakis, are then also cultivated on a small scale. This differs from pomegranates, of which there is a large acreage in the country. That is mainly due to the varieties used in Greece, which simply taste delicious."
"Greek pomegranates are very sweet, but, with their yellowish exterior that has red blushes here and there, they do not look as tasty. That is why the pomegranate seeds you buy in packets in the supermarket mostly come from Greek pomegranates. Of course, the Greeks also cultivate varieties like the Wonderful, which do have a nice appearance,” Peter concludes.