NEW YORK – On the second day of the Summer Fancy Food Show at the Javits Center in New York, The National Herald met with Enterprise Greece President, Grigoris Stergioulis, who spoke about the exhibition, Greek exporters, investments, the bailouts, and the crisis.
He told TNH that the new exporters are the future of Greece, “they are citizens of the world. And they can take the country in their own hands and lead it to the wider world that Greece needs so much.”
TNH: Greece is the honored country at this year’s Summer Fancy Food Show. How much does this participation contribute to the visibility of Greek products?
Gregory Stergioulis: More and more advanced countries are gradually following Hippocrates’ saying: “We are what we eat.” So Greece, as a blessed country with its flora and fauna with so many products in abundance from the Greek land, is at the moment at the center of developments in healthy food and Mediterranean products. On the other hand, the American market, one of the world’s most mature and biggest markets, is increasingly thirsty for high-quality products such as Greek products and with great pleasure I have found that the name Greece is a trademark. Something that means that this small country at the edge of Europe that few know beyond its mythology can supply high-quality products to the rest of the world. From this point of view, it is no coincidence that we are a respected country, it is no coincidence that all visitors are stopping to taste Greek products.
TNH: Has there been any increase in exports of Greek products abroad and if so, to which countries?
GS: At least for the U.S. market last year there was an export record. The same is true in many European countries, the Arab countries, and the Middle East. What we find is that we are growing the products we export. We do not stay in traditional products, olive oil, etc. but we see interest in many more products. Oregano, tomato paste, nuts and others that have not been so popular so far. In this way, the new generation of Greek producers and exporters is forced to adapt to a difficult market like the American one. To make successful exports, three pillars are needed. The products, export support, and a strong economy behind them. I think we are slowly moving into this situation.
TNH: How easy is it for the Greek merchant to export his products to a large market like America? What problems does he face?
GS: Adapting to the FDA in America is not easy. Fortunately, this is not easy because it forces Greek exporters to standardize their quality and supply stable quantities which are very important. Let me also say open up the appetite for some advanced things that in our country are unknown like the clusters to be able to supply larger quantities than they could now and make larger crops. We have a future in this issue.
TNH: Are there any other actions by Enterprise Greece for the future that will help promote Greek businesses and products?
GS: Enterprise Greece basically has two aims. One is to promote Greek exports and the second is to attract investment. I dare say that the experience we have gained from this exhibition is that Greek-Americans or foreign investors, having seen that there is great interest in Greek products, will want to invest in expanding, growing quantities, making good standardization so that we can become even stronger in the world’s largest market, the U.S. market.
TNH: Do you think that with the exit from the bailouts, Greece will enter into a new development path in terms of exports and investment?
GS: The bailouts were a disaster for the country in the sense that the commission they imposed did not leave any degree of freedom. But it also had a good effect. It took away from the market entrepreneurs who did not work for the benefit of the economy. The model that has dominated our country in recent years has been “doing business with borrowed money, making profits abroad, and when businesses are not doing well we sell them to the state.” This model had to stop. From this point of view, this generation of entrepreneurs around us is the future. They are young people, with fresh ideas, cosmopolitan, let’s quote Socrates, “I am a resident of Athens but a citizen of the world.” So they are citizens of the world. And they can take the country in their own hands and lead them to the wider world that Greece needs so much.
TNH: What was the climate of the exhibition with regard to Greek products?
GS: There is something very unprecedented now in Greece. We have about 30 million tourists. These are ambassadors of our country abroad. So there is a very sweet mood towards Greece, unprecedented. The average person sees Greece as a place that they know, they know its products, a place that they can safely go, and spend a very good holiday. If we go to booths with competing products we see that they recognize that the products we export are of very high quality and they say “We will do it like the Greek.” This is unprecedented, you don’t find this often. In a country like America where the Greek element is so intense with so many links, there are no enemies or opponents, you only find friends.