ATHENS: Consumers in Greece are getting headaches this year when they fill their baskets at the grocery shop or open-air markets with ingredients for their famous Greek salad and fruits.
Greece’s annual inflation rate in September stood at 1.6 per cent, but in the food sector, the inflation reached 9.4 per cent, according to the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT).
The prices of fresh vegetables and fruits were 24.7 and 15.7 per cent higher, respectively in September compared to the same period in 2022, while cheeses are 12.8 per cent more expensive.
The reason for the problem does not seem to be increased production costs, or September’s catastrophic floods in Thessaly, central Greece, a region with significant agricultural production, but rather faulty competition in the local market that allows space for profiteering, according to officials and experts.
To address the problem, the government announced several new measures to combat high prices and profiteering a few days ago. For example, all supermarkets will be obliged to report to authorities the information regarding price increases. Meanwhile, inspections over profit margins will increase.
“The fight against overpricing will not stop,“ said Development Minister Kostas Skrekas recently.
The production cost of fruits and vegetables increased in 2022 to early 2023 by an average of 35 per cent, and they have been partially absorbed by producers, but in the past six months, “the enormous hikes in retail prices in the local market were not justified”, George Polychronakis, special counsellor of INCOFRUIT-HELLAS, the Association of Greek Export and Consignment Enterprises for Fruits, Vegetables and Juices, told Xinhua.
The destruction in Thessaly created problems only for a few weeks, Polychronakis noted. The domestic production of fruits and vegetables amounts to eight million tonnes on average per year. Greece exports approximately three million tonnes of fruits and vegetables, and the rest of the production is consumed in the country, he said.
“So, our production is sufficient, but strategic planning is needed to make a better distribution (throughout the year) and to adapt our production to demand and seasonal consumption,“ he said, explaining that demand increases drastically during the summer tourist season, when Greece receives tens of millions of visitors.
“Mostly, we need monitoring of over-profits and over-pricing of products in retail sales in particular,“ Polychronakis added. – Bernama