No Aid For Greek Peach Farmers Yet

Greek peach and nectarine farmers are nervously awaiting an Aug. 22 meeting of European Commission officials to see whether they will be covered for losses as a result of a Russian food embargo on the west in retaliation for sanctions over Ukraine.

Peaches and nectarines were not included in the first announcement that 125 million euros would be given to European Union farmers who are taking a big hit, despite Greek government assurances the farmers would be taken care of in some fashion.

Scores of thousands of tons of produce remain undelivered and much has already rotted away while Greek and European Union officials have delayed their response.

Greek peaches and nectarines are prime export to Russia and represent 50 percent of Greece’s output. The EU subsidies included other fruits and vegetables including apples, pears, tomatoes, carrots, white cabbage, peppers, cauliflowers, cucumbers, gherkins, mushrooms, apples, pear, red fruits, table grapes and kiwis.

Sources in Brussels told Kathimerini that two plans are to be detailed, one relating to farmers producing the covered goods and the second to producers of peaches and nectarines in Greece, Spain, Italy and Portugal.

Meanwhile Greek peach farmers say they are being offered extremely low prices for their produce as thousands of tons sit in refrigerators, or remain uncollected in orchards, following a flurry of canceled orders by Russian firms.

Costas Tampakiaris, the head of Naoussa’s agricultural cooperative, told Kathimerini that local producers were receiving offers of 30 cents a kilogram for peaches, some 20 cents below the usual rate. “They’re circling us like vultures,” he said.

He and other producers are pushing for a meeting with Agricultural Development Minister Giorgos Karasmanis in a bid to find a solution for the surplus fruit.

Farmers are anxious to reach an arrangement for the free distribution of the fruit to avoid creating a glut in the market that would push prices down further. Some fruit has already gone to hospitals and army barracks and the remainder could go to prisons and charities.

The European agriculture and rural development commissioner, Dacian Ciolos, has suggested that a 5 percent limit on the amount of agricultural produce that can be distributed for free to be raised to 10 percent to help farmers reduce the surplus that has resulted from the Russian ban.