The Russian embargo leads Greek exporters of fruits and vegetables to look into China

Γ. ΠολυχρονάκηςGreek exporters of fruits and vegetables are concerned because of delays in the Sino-Greek co-operation making it hard for them to access the Chinese market. In particular, what they suggest is the immediate expansion of the protocol signed in 2008 which only deals with fresh kiwis. On the occasion of the recent visit of Greek Deputy Prime Minister Ioannis Dragasakis to China, the Association of Greek Business Export Distribution of Fruit and Vegetable Juices INCOFRUIT – HELLAS had the opportunity to bring the issue back to the forefront. The special advisor of the Association George Polychronakis underlines in his interview with the need of an immediate promotion of Greek products to China’s market. As he explains, a further delay could benefit countries competing with Greece while the Russian embargo makes the finding of alternative markets even more important.

Mr Polychronakis what did you discuss with Mr Dragasakis before his visit to China?

The most problematic aspect is that of delays mainly stemming from our side and not from the Chinese one. China has already expressed an interest in importing several products but we have not taken the necessary actions. A good start was made in 2012 when a relevant statement for the expansion of the 2008 Greek-Chinese protocol was made. Since 2011/2012 we have started to export kiwis. The volume of our production was 600 tons for the first year but it quickly amounted to 4000 tons with a turnover of 6 million euros.

China is interested in grapes, cherries, plums, oranges and tangerines. But the Greek side has not made an official request. If it does so and the will of China to import more products is practically confirmed, we will be able to increase our exports in the coming years. We can start by exporting cherries and then other fruits and vegetables. By exporting approximately 10,000 tons in total, the turnover can reach 15 million euros, having an upward trend.

How do you explain this delay?

When former Prime Minister Antonis Samaras visited China in 2013, the Greek interest was officially expressed. Nevertheless, Greek authorities have not delivered due to inadequate staffing. I hope that after the meetings of this year, we will speed up the procedures and sign relevant agreements in light of Mr Alexis Tsipras visit to China.

Can Greek products penetrate the Chinese market?

The Chinese market has a huge potential given the improvement of the living standards of Chinese people and the strengthening of the yuan. Its imports are increasing year by year. On the whole, this is a very good market for us to promote products withstanding the process of transporttion and other problems. Also, we should not forget the Russian embargo leading us to look for alternatives. But the steps should be taken very quickly as there is a risk that other countries might fill the gap before Greece.

Sotiris Skouloudis