ATHENS – When times got tough and an economic crisis began in Greece in 2010, the hungry knew they could always fall back on the kind of King of Greek Fast Food but a long traditional favorite as well: souvlaki, often called a gyro.
For about 1.30 ($1.46) at most of the ubiquitous souvlaki joints that were as common as periptera, those little sidewalk kiosks that are as common in Greek cities as wild poppies in a field i the countryside.
Some places sold the creations of a pita bread wrapping filled with pork – sometimes chicken – tomatoes, the creamy garlicky yogurt sauce with cucumber called tzatziki, onions, and sometimes fries – for as little as 90 euro cents, or about a buck.
Times have changed and the souvlaki has gone to 1.80, 2.00, 2.30 or 2.40 and now is set to reach as much as 3 euros ($3.37) because of a rise in the price of pork.
That might not seem like a lot but for many Greeks living on pensions and incomes as low as 300-380 euros ($337.37-$427.33,) it can give them pause because even one a day for lunch would eat up a third of their income.
Price hikes are set to go up 10-15 percent, shop owners are warning customers, said Kathimerini, putting them in a tough spot because even places that sell souvlaki, the fare that has killed off competition including McDonald’s and Wendy’s around Athens, sometimes have closed too during the crisis so this rise isn’t marginal for them.
The shops can’t set a uniform price hike because that would be in violation of the country’s competition laws so there could be a kind of curious price hike war, especially at spots where the shops are literally across the street from each other and have to stand out somehow.
The Association of Hellenic Meat Processing Industries (SEBEK) said international pork prices have seen a rise of 30-32 percent since end-February. “Statistically, every couple of years there is a simultaneous emergence of several factors leading to a pork price increase. Usually the consequences are temporary and hikes are absorbed by the manufacturing industry and the distribution chain. In this case it is taking longer and a part of the price increase will reach the final consumer,” SEBEK warned as well.
The Athens Professional Chamber called for talks to ease the impact on consumers, asking for a reduction of taxes that were hiked by the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA that have especially targeted workers, pensioners and the poor.
So don’t look, as a Greek restaurant in Melbourne, Australia did earlier this year to honor Greek tennis player Stefanos Tsitsipas at the Australian Open, for places in Athens to name a souvlaki after someone famous if they’re a politician because it might contain something other than pork.