Austerity, FYROM? Elections? Greeks Agitated Over Souvlaki Prices

(Photo by Eurokinissi staff, file)

ATHENS – Worries that the rise in cost of pork could see Greece’s beloved fast-food souvlakis and gyros jump in price as much as 80 euro cents to 3 euros ($3.37) has set off a social media frenzy despite assurances the hike – if any – would be minimal.

Pork prices rose in the wake of the devastating effects of African swine fever disease in China – the world’s biggest producer and consumer of pork, making lovers of the Greek treat worried they’d have to dig deeper into their pockets for a low-price meal.

Representatives of fast-food chains and souvlaki sellers played down the impact of higher pork prices on the cost of the classic Greek souvlaki, the traditional “takeaway” option loved by tourists and locals alike.

Talking to the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA), many sellers said they expected to absorb the extra cost and keep prices for the pita and gyros snack unchanged, or going up only about 10 euro cents (11 US cents.)

Souvlaki is, essentially, meat packed into a flour pita-bread, along with other assorted ingredients, such as tomatoes, onions, French fries and the garlic-yogurt flavored spread tzatziki, and sometimes other ingredients.

A Gyro is thin strips cut from packed meat revolving on a vertical rotisserie with pork the major preference of buyers although chicken is available. The “doner” variety, widely popular in Turkey and the Near East, uses lamb and beef.

Speculation prices could rise sharply led to an initial probe by Greece’s competition commission into charges of profiteering at the wholesale meat sector, and prospect of cartel-like agreement by grill houses, the business newspaper Naftemporiki said.

With the country in a nine-year economic and austerity crisis and still feeling after Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras gave away the name of the ancient Greek province of Macedonia to a newly-renamed North Macedonia – and elections coming this year – Greeks were more anxious about the souvlaki prices going up.

There was a flood of social media responses to the idea after  Giorgos Polyzos, representative of a new association of grill house owners told SKAI TV consumers could expect price hikes of 10-15 percent, setting off a buzz that buyers were going to be gouged.

Polyzos, said meat prices have already increased by 30 percent, a figure he said business owners could not fully absorb, leading Giorgos Kavvathas, President of the country’s restaurant federation, Giorgos Kavvathas, to take to the radio to deny price hikes.

“You can’t speak of an increase from 2.20 euros (the current rate) to three euros. I can see an increase of 10 to 20 cents in the price of meat,” he said in response.

He added that, “An under-establishment (sector) association instead of coming out and decrying (high) VAT (Value Added Tax) rates says that, as of May 1, the price of souvlaki will increase … No one knows if we’ll see a price hike in the cost of meat at that time. It seems strange to me.”