ORGANIC FARMING AND MARKETING IN GREECE
ORGANIC FARMING AND MARKETING IN GREECE
1. Agriculture in Greece
• In 1995, there were 774,000 farms in Greece.
• In 1997 the total agricultural area was 5,148,000 hectares.
• The average farm size is about 6.6 hectares.
• Crop and animal production in Greece are traditionally
separate from each other. Animals, mostly sheep and goats,
graze on harvested fields and public land, including woodland,
grassland and barren land. In the winter, grazing is
supplemented by animal feed produced by the same farmer or
purchased in the region around the farm. There are, however,
big animal farms similar to those in western and central
Europe producing eggs, milk and meat for the centres of
consumption exclusively from purchased animal feed.
2. History and Development of Organic Agriculture in Greece
Organic agriculture in Greece has its roots in the ecological
movement at the beginning of the 1980s. The first organic
farmers were mostly amateurs who experimented with different
organic cultivation methods, e.g. according to Steiner, Fukuoka
The first organic production in Greece began in 1982 in
Aigialeia when a small group of local farmers began the
production of organic Corinthian grapes with the intent to export
them to Holland. A consultant for organic agriculture working in
cooperation with the Dutch certification organisation Skal laid the
basis for the conversion of some farms in Aegio, a region
between Patras and Korinth. The organic farming project of the
EAS Aigialeias is still active today, with over 500 producers
involved in the farming of grapes, olives, and citrus fruits.
From 1986 onward, a German firm supported the production
of organic olives and olive oil for export.
The first organic olive production began in Mani in the
During the 1980s, foreign regulatory bodies, (Skal, Soil
Association and Naturland), controlled Greek organic farms, as
such infrastructure did not yet exist in Greece. During that time,
the Greek market was focused on olive oil, olives, citrus, wine,
1There is no official data on organic agriculture for the period
from 1982 to 1992. According to estimates, there were about
150 producers cultivating a total area of 200 hectares. By 1992
there were around 150 organic farms on 2,000 hectares of land.
In the 1990s the industry was boosted by the passage of
several European Community Regulations which called for
regulatory bodies for organic production and provided subsidies
to organic farms.
However, the major change was brought about with the
application of EU-Regulation 2092/91, in 1993 in the country,
while a second expansion took place after the adoption of EURegulation 2078/92 in 1996 in the country. Among other things,
the Regulation calls for giving subsidies in order to support
organic agriculture. This incentive is credited with nearly
doubling the organically cultivated land in less than a year.
Afterwards the number of organic farmers and the corresponding
cultivated areas continually increased.
Organic agriculture has rapidly expanded since its official
establishment, with annual growth rates of between 50 percent
and 120 percent; slowing down to 20-30% in 1999-2000. In
1999, both the share of organically utilised area as well as the
number of organic farmers reached 0.6 percent of the overall
Organic farms go through several phases before their produce
can be considered truly organic. In 2004, 54.4 percent of
organic farms in Greece were considered to be in the fully
organic phase, up from 35.7 percent in 2003.
In 2004, olive trees represented 47.5 percent of all
organically cultivated products in Greece, followed by grain at
23.1 percent and grapes at 6.1 percent.
2In Table 1 represented the development of Organic
Farming in Greece since 1993 to 1999.
Table 1: Development of Organic Farming in Greece per 31.12.1999
Sources: Ministry of Agriculture, certification and inspection bodies for organic
products: Dio, Fysiologiki and Soge for December 31st of each year * Estimation
by Dio, Certifying and inspection body for organic products.
There are many reasons to consider investing in organic
agriculture in Greece. The primary advantages Greece has over
other European countries include the low cost of labour, the
presence of large areas of land that have not been used in many
years, meaning that they are suitable for immediate use for
organic farms, the composition of the soil, the continued use of
traditional methods of cultivation, and the temperate climate.
3. Organic Agriculture Organisations
3.1. Certification and Inspection Bodies
• Dio — founded in 1993.
• “Soge” is part of “Soge – Syllogos Oikologikis Georgias
Elladas” (“Association for Organic Agriculture in Greece”); the
association was founded in 1985 and the inspection body with
the same name was founded in 1993.
• “Fysiologiki” was founded in 1994.
3• AGROCERT—organization for certification and inspection of
agricultural products (Ministry of Agriculture).
3.2. Farmers’, Consumers’ and Scientific Organisations
• The “EEBE – Enosi Epangelmation Biokalliergiton
Elladas” (“Union of Organic Farmers of Greece”)
represents Greek organic farmers at large
exhibitions, fairs and at the Ministry of Agriculture.
Its main activities during the last years have been
the lobbying for registration of biological inputs at
the agricultural Ministry in Greece (e.g. traps,
biological pesticides) and the organisation of weekly
markets for fresh organic products in Athens.
• “Rea” (English: Rhea), the “Scientific Society for
Organic Agriculture” connects ecologically interested
agricultural scientists in order to support and inform
them about organic agriculture.
• “Ergastiri Oikologikis Praktikis” (“Workshop for
Ecological Practice”) has organised lectures and fairs
about ecology and organic farming in Thessalonica.
In recent years, it joined the “Network for the
Preservation and Exchange of Local Varieties and
Native Animal Breeds”. Their activities concentrate on
disseminating information and organising seed
exchanges on an amateur level.
• “Union of Consumers of Organic Agricultural
Products”, the “Network of Actions against Pesticides
and for Organic Agriculture” as well as some other
organisations deal particularly with consumer
• IFOAM—the head office of the national IFOAM group
is located at the Mediterranean Agronomic Institute
of Chania (MAICh). The Greek representative in the
IFOAM EU group is in charge of collecting and passing
on information from the European Union group to the
members of the national group and vice versa.
4. D istr ibut ion of Organic Farms
4.1. Greek Organic Farms in EU distr ibut ion
Greece belongs to the first group of Member States, –
Greece (EL), Spain (E), Italy (I), Austria (A), Finland (F)
and Sweden(S) (Figure 1) – where the average annual
growth rate has been 50% or more over the last ten years.
These six countries represent nearly 70% of all organic
farms in the European Community, although they account
for only two thirds of all agricultural holdings. In these
4countries, most of the increase has been since 1993. For
Greece the 1992 CAP reform may have been an important
F igure 1: Number o f organic farms in 1998 and increase s in the
number o f organic farms be tween 1985 and 1998 ( front runner s) .
In Greece, the rate of increase in the number of
organic farms, excluding livestock, has been impressive.
Even so, at 30 000 in 1998, Greece represents only 2% of
organic farms in the EU, although it has 11% of all EU
agricultural holdings. Organic livestock products are not
certified in Greece but, in general, holdings with livestock
(specialised or mixed) represent only 25% of total
4.2. Distr ibut ion of Organic Farms in Greece
Most Greek organic farms are situated in southern
and central Greece due to the main Greek organic product,
The Peloponnese leads Greece with the most organic
farms. It has 110,800.26 hectares of organically
cultivated land, which represents 41.5 percent of the
Western Greece follows with 12.3 percent, or
32,921.64 hectares, and the Ionian Islands.
The distribution of organic farms in Greece is shown
in table 2.
5Tab le 2: Dis tribution o f Organic Farms in 2005 (sour ce: Minis try o f
Agricul ture , 2005)
D istr ibut ion of Greek Organ ic Farms in 2005
Prefecture Cultivated land (ha)
AGION OROS 242 5
AITOLOAKARNANIA 48238 2116
ARGOLIDA 6716 460
ARKADIA 4022 162
ARTA 2932 167
ATTICA 1092 191
AHAÚAS 3065 385
VIOTIA 2868 170
GREVENA 4195 137
DRAMAS 14432 147
DODEKANISOU 116 20
EBROS 8295 273
EVIA 6820 209
EVRYTANIA 1225 23
ZAKYNTHOS 370 35
ILIA 2224 193
IMATHIA 919 234
HERAKLION 4723 421
THESSALONICA 10026 285
THESPROTIA 4521 75
IOANINA 6717 50
KAVALA 1081 149
KARDITSA 2197 133
KASTORIA 217 21
CORFU 60 17
CEPHALONIA 15542 195
KILKIS 3754 181
KOZANI 3104 384
KORINTHIA 2298 426
CYCLADES 831 41
LAKONIA 10291 924
LARISSA 18397 1017
LASITHI 859 115
LESVOS 12275 1460
LEFKADA 1454 73
MAGNESIA 17425 559
MESSINIA 7223 683
XANTHI 1370 40
PIRAEUS 465 87
PELLA 444 144
PIERIA 563 94
PREVEZA 2250 115
RETHIMNO 5346 286
RODOPI 359 44
SAMOS 284 81
SERRES 6001 209
TRIKALAS 2701 138
6FTHIOTIDA 4722 408
FLORINA 1527 96
FOKIDA 5758 70
CHALKIDIKI 14800 434
CHANIAS 5962 239
CHIOS 5172 71
General sum 288487 14614
5. Major Organic Crops
The range of the crops cultivated in Greece is
considered to be small. The main reason for that is the
fact that most farmers are used to produce some
particular products and that growers are oriented towards
perennial crops rather than annual ones.
The main organic products of Greece are olive oil and olives,
followed by vine, other tree crops (especially citrus) and arable
crops (see table 4). The main share of the industrial crops referred
to is cotton.
Pastures and meadows account for more than 62 % in
Fresh vegetables are also produced for export and for the
domestic market. The organic area of fresh vegetables has a share
of less than 1 %.
Presently, the production of organic apples, pears and
cherries is of negligible importance, but farmers show increasing
interest in developing these crops.
Other organic arable crops (e.g. sunflowers, sugar
beets, industrial tomatoes, pulses, sesame, herbs) are
mainly hindered by the lack of processing possibilities, the
low level of know-how and low prices for these products
on the conventional market.
7Table 4: Greek Organic Products According to Ministry of Agriculture in 2004
Organic and in – conversion crop production in 2004
TOTAL 49.280 217.879 267.159
Grains 7.046 5.536 12.582
Legumes 73 119 192
Potatoes 17 12 29
Sugar beets 5 0 5
Forage 1.176 1.813 2.989
Industrial crops 1.464 1.465 2.929
Tobacco 0 24 24
Hop 0 0 0
Cotton 92 919 1.011
Sunflower 1.238 78 1.316
Soya 0 212 212
Herbs 90 47 137
Other Industrial crops 44 112 156
(total) 149 112 261
Flowers and Ornamental
plants 0 0 0
Fodder crops (total) 3 34 37
Arable 499 496 995
Fallow 573 730 1.303
Grassland (total) 22.987 173.247 196.234
Horticulture (total) 682 1.076 1.758
Citrus 542 1.626 2.168
Olive trees (total) 11.337 14.474 25.811
Vine/currant (total) 1.244 2.059 3.303
6. Animal Husbandry
Organic animal products have also made their
appearance in the domestic market since the last months
of 2000, as the EU-Regulation for biological animal
breeding has been adopted in the country.
Organic livestock production in Greece is shown in Table 5.
8Table 5: Greek Organic Animal Production in 2004 (source: Agriculture
Animal species TOTAL
Bovine (total) 14.671
Dairy cattle 375
Suckler cows 9.308
Other cattle 1.004
Sheep (total) 94.362
Goats (total) 215.291
Pigs (total) 4.469
Poultry (total) 68.386
Bees (number of steam beds) 3.719
Other animal species 58
EU-15 certified sheep & goats amounted to 2.4 million heads
or 2.4% of total sheep & goats herd. Of the 380 000 certified goats,
40% are located in Greece (see figure 3).
Figure 3: Number of certified sheep & goats in EU-15, 2003 (000)
The market offer includes eggs, feta cheese and meat of
sheep and goats, dairy products (e.g. yogurt) and small
quantities of pork and veal.
The demand for food for organic animal production
already raised the area cultivated with arable crops and
especially fodder crops.
7. Standards and Cert if icat ion, State Regulat ion
9The only standards for certification are Council
Regulations (EEC) 2092/91 and (EC) 1804/99.
The Minister of Rural Growth and Foods has promoted
the Decision (ΚΥΑ) 245090/2006 of OFFICIAL JOURNAL OF
THE HELLENIC REPUBLIC 157B/10.02.2006 where is determined
the additional measurements for the application of the control
system of organic products production in Greece.
8. Implementat ion of Counc il Regulat ion (EEC) No.
The Bureau of Organic Products, Department of the
Ministry of Agriculture, is responsible for everything in
terms of organic agriculture concerning EEC Regulations,
including supervising the implementation of EU
regulations, participating in meetings and discussions at
the EU level, trans ferring the regulations into Greek law
and supervising the certification and inspection process.
A new body, partly independent of the Ministry of
Agriculture, was established to deal with the certification
of a series of quality labels (regional, integrated pest
management, etc.) under the name of “Agrocert”.
Considering organic production, this body takes over some
tasks of the Bureau of Organic Products.
Three certification and inspection bodies, Soge, Dio
and Fysiologiki, were recognised in 1993 and 1994, and
each has its own label.
The Ministry of Agriculture supervises the inspection
and certification process by collecting figures from the
certification bodies and checking archives and data. Since
the implementation of the EU Regulation 2078/92, district
departments of the Ministry of Agriculture have started to
make random checks on organic farms.
9. State Support, Policy Init iat ives
Organic Agriculture was never supported by the
Greek government apart from the implementation of EEC
The EU Regulation 2078/92 first made it possible for
organic farmers to receive subsidies for organic farming.
The regulation was trans ferred into a national regulation
in 1996. Organic farmers could apply for financial support
from spring 1996 until spring 1997.
Afterwards, the regulation was changed. A new
application period started in autumn 1998 and is still
going on. It aims for a more even distribution of organic
farms all over the country, concentrating around
ecologically important areas as well as in certain regions
10in order to create “organic farming communities”. Each of
the 56 districts had to declare regions and products to be
subsidized. For many farms, that means that only part of
their crops will be supported financially, depending on the
district subsidy plan. The government budget was
calculated to cover 1,000 hectares in 1998, 8,000 hectares
in 1999 and 5,000 hectares in 2000 in addition to 7,200
hectares which were subsidized until 1997 (the overall
area to be subsidized until 2000: 21,200 hectares).
10. Implementat ion of Agenda 2000
The new rural development regulation under AGENDA
2000 caused major changes concerning organic as well as
The 1257/99 referring to organic agriculture is
implemented since February 2001 onwards. Each farmer
has to pay for his own agronomist-consultant who will be
responsible for annual cultivation programmes and reports
as well as for a detailed Environment Treatment Plan. In
order to make it worthwhile applying for the programme,
the annual subsidy must be higher than the payment for
the agronomist. This is the case for farms bigger than
6-10 ha vine or 15-20 ha arable crops or olives. The
average organic farm size, however, is 4.3 ha. Therefore,
this condition excludes small organic farmers from
Other problems of the programme are the small
subsidy for arable crops and especially horticulture, the
limitation of the programme to a 5 year conversion period
and the high demand for documents and data from the
farmer. The 1257/99 programme is believed to be one of
the most difficult EEC programmes to apply for – especially
if one takes into account the small amount of money,
which a small organic farmer will be paid.
The main problem, however, is not so much the
constant changes in legislation and the general shortage
of funds, but the poor level of information, the negative
attitude towards organic agriculture and the difference in
the interpretation of the national regulation by most of the
local departments of the Ministry of Agriculture. These are
some of the reasons why in 1996 only a little bit more of
2/3 of organic farmers was supported by the 2078/92
programme. This percentage will deteriorate as the 2078
is running out and the 1257 is gradually taking over.
In some regions of Greece, certain investments and
activities of organic farmers were subsidized through the
EEC Regional Programmes. As Agenda 2000 brought about
11an overall orientation towards the production of quality
products, organic production gives advantages to
applicants in all investment programmes (Leader, Youth
start, Processing of agricultural products etc.). In some
cases (wine making, processing of olive oil), the existence
of organic raw material is the only possibility to get
subsidies out of EEC programmes.
Agenda 2000 demands crop rotation programmes as
well as nature protection and reduction of fertilizers even
from conventional farmers. These obligatory means of
“good agricultural practice” pushes conventional farmers
towards more friendly methods of land cultivation. It is
not sure, whether this will help them in order to convert
easier to organic agriculture.
11. Market ing of Organic Products
Business working in the organic farming sector can be
separated into three categories: producers, processors,
and importers. According to the Ministry of Agriculture,
the number of businesses working in the organic farming
sector in Greece reached 9,002 in 2004, up from 6,642 in
Tab le 6: Number o f regis tered organic opera tor s in Gree ce
Organ ic producers Organ ic processors Organ ic importers
1998 2003 2004 1998 2003 2004 1998 2003 2004
4183 6028 8269 71 451 570 0 4 4
A general increase in the number of organic processors have
been observed in Greece (average annual growth rate of 61 %),
(see Figure 4).
Figure 4: Average annual growth rate of the number of organic producers,
processors and importers (%), from 1998 to 2003
12Interest in the processing of organic products in
Greece has been expressed by foreign investors especially
in the production and processing of organic animal
products (organic poultry). And demand for organic meat
and cheese is on the rise.
A. Domestic Market
Organised marketing of organic products is just
starting with marketing organisations coming up and
expanding within the last years.
The number of stores selling organic products has
increased dramatically over the last few years. The first
stores opened in 1993.
Organic products in Greece are available mainly
• The organic producers themselves, who sell their
products at local weekly open markets or directly
at the farm gate.
• Organic food shops found in the last few years in
many large cities of Greece, such as Athens,
Thessalonica, Heraklion, etc. Imported organic
products may also exist in cases where domestic
organic products are not enough to satis fy
13• Health and natural food shops depending on the
interest of the shop owner and the ability of
several organic farmers to launch their products as
products of higher quality (e.g. wine, fruit,
• A small number of specialised stores buy and sell
organic products on a wholesale basis, too.
• However, one chain of supermarkets started some
time ago to sell organic products in a special
“organic” section and presents organic products in
the company’s advertisement journal. Other chains
have subsequently joined in this effort.
• There is a weekly market in a different location in
Athens every day at which only organic products
are sold. Weekly organic markets there are also in
Thessalonica, Bolos and Larissa. Many farmers,
however, sell their products among conventional
farmers at the local weekly markets in their
districts or directly from the farm.
As far as the prices are concerned, the prices of
organic products in Greece are higher than those of
conventional ones, since they are products of top quality
and the cultivation/production cost is higher.
Most products are exported, especially fresh fruit,
olives, olive oil and wine.
Most organic olive oil produced in Greece is exported
(71-73 percent of the total yearly production). This is a
rapidly growing market. In 1999, 765 tons of oil was
exported, compared with 1,900 tons in 2004.
Approximately 16 percent of organically produced
Greek wine is exported. Organic know-how in vine
cultivation has reached a high level. The increase in
organic viticulture is also a consequence of the high
hectare subsidy and restrictions on conventional wine
64 percent of organic grain produced in Greece is
1412. Training and Research
Up to now, there has been very little official training
in organic agriculture.
• In 1998, a postgraduate programme for
agronomists that specialised in organic agriculture
was set up in Iraklion, Crete, including two months
of lectures, two months of practical training and
two months of study on a topic concerning organic
• A four-year study programme started in 1999 in
Argostoli on the island of Kefallinia, finishing with
an agronomist’s diploma specifying organic
agriculture. The body responsible for this
programme is the college TEI Epirus.
• Many seminars on organic agriculture subsidised
by the EU are held all over the country and are
targeted at unemployed people.
• Already, many colleges and even Universities have
included optional lectures on organic agriculture
and animal production into their study
• Part of the research under EU-regulation 2078//92
is carried out by the National Institute for
Agricultural Research (N.AG.RE.F – Ethniko
Instituto gia Agrotiki Erevna). The programme
deals with the description and providing of
statistical data on organic farms in Greece. Soil
analyses have been carried out concerning soil
parameters as organic matter, pH, carbon content,
soil nutrients as well as pesticide residues. A small
number of researchers are employed by Branches
of the Institute in Southern Greece. Their research
topics are directly connected with organic
agriculture (soil improvement, fertilizing and plant
protection in different crops).
• Universities and governmental institutions usually
deal with research topics concerning the reduction
of chemicals in agriculture and the development of
environmentally friendly techniques of agricultural
• The main research topics are: the fight against the
Dacus fly in olive production; organic fertilising
and green manure; alternatives in coping with
fungal diseases in olives and wine; integrated pest
management; chemical residues in the
environment; and consumer behaviour.