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2nd Panhellenic Congress on the Development of Greek Agriculture

Enterprising farmers & farmers’ organizations relaunch the agricultural economy

The works of the two-day Panhellenic Congress on the Development of Greek Agriculture organised by GAIA EPICHEIREIN, the ‘Demeter’ Hellenic Agricultural Organisation and the Hellenic Livestock Association took place on 4 and 5 November and met with great success.

More than 600 participants attended the event, in order to listen to presentations by distinguished speakers, who set the framework, terms and conditions that have the capacity to contribute to the rebooting of the agricultural sector, through a national action plan that is based on cooperation and innovation, with measurable and appraisable results.

At the opening of the Congress, the audience was addressed by the Alternate Minister of Agriculture, Mr Markos Bolaris, the President of PASEGES, Mr Tzanetos Karamichas, and the President of ‘Demeter’ Hellenic Agricultural Association, Mr Georgios Karetsos, while video messages were sent by the European Commissioner for Agriculture, Mr Phil Hogan, the Vice President of the European Parliament, Ms Mairead McGuinness, the President of the Group of Socialists & Democrats of the European Parliament, Mr Gianni Pittella, and Mr Paolo De Castro, Coordinator of the Group of Socialists & Democrats on the Agricultural Committee of the European Parliament.

In his opening speech, the President of GAIA EPICHEIREIN, Mr Christodoulos Antoniadis, announced the intention of Piraeus Bank to fund an ambitious programme which provides for the gradual installation over 5 years of a network of 10,000 telemetric stations that will cover all arable land in Greece. These telemetric stations will allow for the development of precision farming applications using environmental data, such as crop disease notifications, irrigation and fertilisation advice, notifications for adverse weather events, etc.

The CEO of GAIA EPICHEIREIN, Mr Giannis Koufoudakis, welcomed the delegates and underlined the purpose of the Congress, highlighting the main problems affecting Greek Agriculture and the divergence of its main figures from the European average.

The Congress consisted of four thematic sessions which focused on the following subjects: ‘Greek Agriculture Today: Realistic assessment ’, ‘National Action Plan to relaunch the Greek agricultural economy’, ‘Agri-food sector and cooperative business activities ’, ‘European and national tools to empower agricultural entrepreneurship’.

As part of the first session, Mr Panagiotis Peveretos, President of the Hellenic Livestock Association, and Messrs Vassilis Parolas, Director of the Agricultural Cooperative of Thesprotia, and Christos Tsichitas, President of EASTH-Agricultural Cooperative of Thessaloniki, both members of the BoD of GAIA EPICHEIREIN, vividly described the issues pending as regards agricultural and livestock production, as well as agricultural activity in general, raising questions and proposing solutions which supported the necessity of strong cooperatives and producer organisations. Next, Mr Dimitris Skouras, Professor at the Department of Economics, Dean of the School of Organisation and Business Administration, University of Patras, presented the factors that affect the formulation of inputs and outputs in Greek agriculture.

Next, Ms Elli Tsiforou, Head of the Brussels Office of GAIA EPICHEIREIN, and Mr Vasilis Kappas, agronomist and collaborator of GAIA EPICHEIREIN, referred to the framework, conditions and priorities for a sustainable national plan for Greece’s agricultural sector, while Mr Dimosthenis Kassavetis, Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Law, Democritus University of Thrace, raised timely issues that concern cooperative legislation, and, Mr Nikos Tsemperlidis, President of the Consumer Protection Centre (KEPKA), referred to the key role of consumers in the agri-food system.

In the framework of the third session, Messrs Christian Pèes, President of Cogeca, Paulo Gouveia, Director of General Affairs of Copa–Cogeca, Gabriel Trenzado, Manager at the Spanish Cooperativas Agroalimentarias organisation, Genaro Siccolo, President of the National Association of Olive Growers of Italy, and Miltos Stavropoulos, Director General of the Agricultural Cooperatives’ Union of AEGHION S.A., presented their concerns regarding the progress and role of cooperatives in the EU, and focused specifically on the methods and tools that must be adopted in order to strengthen cooperative entrepreneurship. Cooperation, innovation, internationalisation, traceability, and strengthening the position of producers in the food supply chain were at the main focus of the presentations.

During the last thematic session of the Congress, Mr Tasos Chaniotis, on behalf of the Directorate General for Agriculture of the European Commission, referred to the opportunities and challenges for Greek agriculture in the framework of the new CAP, and Mr Giannis Chaniotakis, Director of Agricultural Sector Operations Development at Piraeus Bank, presented the financial support instruments provided by Piraeus Bank for the service of the agricultural sector. Messrs Ioannis Vastardis, Milk Zone Operations Manager at DELTA, and Giorgos Karetsos, President of ELGO-DEMETER, respectively referred to actions in support of dairy livestock and the national R&D policy.

Lastly, the representative of TUV Austria Hellas, Mr Konstantinos Mavropoulos, spoke of the important role of quality in the development of the agri-food sector, while Mr Fotis Chatzipapadopoulos, BoD Member of GAIA EPICHEIREIN, presented the work and contribution of the entity in supporting Producer Organisations through innovation.

In his closing remarks, the Chairman of the Strategic Planning Committee of GAIA EPICHEIREIN, Mr Giorgos Kormentzas, stressed the importance of highlighting and supporting a measurable agricultural model, and underlined the dedicated commitment of the company to that end. At the same time, he informed the attendees that the 3rdPanhellenic Congress on the Development of Greek Agriculture would be organised in Athens, together with the Congress of European Farmers of the European agricultural organisations Copa-Cogeca, in October 2016.