ATHENS- What fruit can only be cultivated in Greece, Italy and Spain among European countries, fights cancer, revives cells, and is as easy to grow as it requires skill to clean?
The answer is pomegranate – and as producer and exporter Stefanos Kassidis tells Athens-Macedonian News Agency, France pays him a euro per 1ml of oil extracted from its seeds.
Besides featuring largely in the mythology and traditions of several cultures, pomegranate fruit is known in medicine for its properties of fighting cancer, protecting heart vessels, and reviving skin cells, which is why the oil extracted from its seeds it’s used frequently in medical and skin care beauty products.
Kassidis, whose company is NW of Thessaloniki in the town of Ditiko and cultivates pomegranates for the fruit and juice as well, says that pomegranate seed oil “is drinkable, contains vitamin C that protects the heart and arteries, fights cancer, and has the ability to help rejuvenate cells.” Basically, he says, it helps the body’s immunity system fight diseases.
“Essentially, the oil extracted from the seed is the ‘gold’ part of the fruit,” he says, “the most potent part of it – it’s a foundational raw material in the production of cancer-fighting medicines and beauty products.”
His company cultivates approximately 1,200 hectares, has a staff of 90 and began operating during the economic crisis. Now, he says, it exports 95 pct of production, which includes fruit, juice that can be frozen, marmalade, balsamic vinegar, sauces and the oil extract. The latter goes entirely to France. He exports the fruit and juice to Europe, Russia, the Far East, Israel and Jordan.
“But the oil extract is only exported to France, and it’s not enough,” he notes ruefully, as “you need 1,000 tons of pomegranates to produce 400 kilos of oil. It’s precious, that’s why even 1 ml costs one euro.”
According to Kassidis, the popularity of his brand of oil extract rests on the preparations, and particularly in cleaning away the rind of the fruit. “We are global pioneers, because in our industry we have vertical production in pomegranates and produce large quantities. We are the only ones on Greek and European level to produce oil in industrialized form,” he adds proudly.
But as the fruit tree cannot grow in cold climates, Kassidis encourages other Greek farmers to try it. The trees are fairly easy to take care of and as production demands rise, Greece has a great opportunity to claim part of this market, especially since pomegranates have always featured largely both in ancient Greek myth and in popular tradition.