Domestic Consumption Rises in Greece Amid COVID-19, Economic Growth Predicted to Halt

Greek olive oil remains in high demand among national consumers as the country's economic growth is predicted to grind to a halt.

Mar. 30, 2020
By Costas Vasilopoulos

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Greeks are buy­ing more olive oil to stock their pantries, but the COVID-19 pan­demic is pre­dicted to oblit­er­ate the highly antic­i­pated growth of the national econ­omy.

We have to ful­fill an order of bot­tled olive oil from Switzerland and we are wor­ried that we don’t have enough car­ton pack­ages.- Unique Greek Products

The Bank of Greece has pre­dicted a near-zero growth with a sig­nif­i­cant neg­a­tive effect on the econ­omy dur­ing the first two quar­ters of 2020, to be par­tially com­pen­sated in the two last quar­ters.” The Greek gov­ern­ment announced urgent finan­cial mea­sures to sup­port sec­tors directly affected by the pan­demic, includ­ing food ser­vice, retail­ers, dis­til­leries and the tourism indus­try.

Domestic pro­duc­tion and sup­ply of goods and edi­bles remain unhin­dered for now. Many con­sumers, dri­ven by uncer­tainty, are stock­ing up on sta­ple food prod­ucts.

See Also: Olive Oil Sales Jump While Italian Economy Shrinks from COVID-19

A sur­vey of the Institute for Research of Retail Consumer Goods (IELKA), showed that more than half of respon­dents have stock­piled rice, pasta, olive oil and flour to last two to three weeks. This is despite the fact that most of them were also con­fi­dent that stores would not face prod­uct short­ages any time soon.

The super­mar­ket chains have also reported that the demand for olive oil has increased by more than 100 per­cent, how­ever, there is no short­age of olive oil bot­tles on the shelves.

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Many Greeks tra­di­tion­ally source olive oil from their pri­vately owned olive groves. Following pop­u­lar Greek habit, many oth­ers buy olive oil in bulk in 17-liter tins, cal­cu­lated to last them until the next har­vest.

Greek importers said that, so far, there is no dis­rup­tion in prod­ucts com­ing in from Europe and espe­cially Italy (the sec­ond-largest exporter of prod­ucts to Greece after Germany), but noted that it is too soon for any export dis­rup­tions to be seen.

The impact of the COVID-19 out­break in Europe on exports of Greek agri­cul­tural and food prod­ucts has not yet been felt, although most indus­try experts pre­dicted the pan­demic would result in an omi­nous busi­ness envi­ron­ment.

We hope for the smooth­ing of the sit­u­a­tion as soon as pos­si­ble, before our plan­ning is com­pletely over­thrown and the momen­tum of our indus­try has dis­ap­peared,” the Panhellenic Exporters Association said in a state­ment. Greek exports enter a chal­leng­ing period and the [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)] has already pre­dicted a decline in demand and a slow­down of growth in the EU.”

Some food exporters have taken advan­tage of the oppor­tu­nity to increase their exports due to the increased demand by Italy for food prod­ucts, mostly dairy and fish.

Consumers are rapidly stock­ing up on food sup­plies due to the uncer­tainty. Of course, they also for­get about it just as quickly,” the head of an unnamed dairy prod­ucts com­pany told Greek news­pa­per Kathimerini.

Despite early increases in busi­ness for Greek food exporters, they acknowl­edged the fact that any tur­bu­lence in the for­eign mar­kets will not be pos­i­tive for the sec­tor in the long run.

Unverified rumors have cir­cu­lated that Germany, the largest con­sumer of olive oil among the non-pro­duc­ing EU mem­ber states, will stop import­ing Italian olive oil in favor of Greek due to the extreme COVID-19 sit­u­a­tion in Italy.

Exporters of olive oil told Olive Oil Times that most of their ship­ments have already reached their des­ti­na­tions, includ­ing Italy, the largest buyer of Greek bulk olive oil, while a few were anx­ious to ful­fill their remain­ing orders.

We sent ship­ments of bulk olive oil to Italy in January and another ship­ment in early March when the coro­n­avirus cri­sis was begin­ning with no prob­lems what­so­ever,” the Athens-based Vivelia export­ing com­pany told Olive Oil Times. We are done for the sea­son with our exports.”

Another exporter, Unique Greek Products from Lakonia, told Olive Oil Times that their biggest con­cern is to secure the pack­ag­ing mate­ri­als required for exports of olive oil.

We have to ful­fill an order of bot­tled olive oil from Switzerland and we are wor­ried that we don’t have enough car­ton pack­ages,” com­pany rep­re­sen­ta­tives said. Due to the enforced cir­cu­la­tion pro­hi­bi­tion and the stand­still of almost every­thing, it is almost impos­si­ble to get pack­ag­ing mate­ri­als and other stuff we need in time from our provider. And even if we man­age to send it, there is so much uncer­tainty every­where now that we expect any­thing to hap­pen.”

They noted that the green lane” bor­der cross­ings planned by the European Commission to allow trans­port of goods unham­pered by COVID-19 con­trol mea­sures within the EU, could be a solid solu­tion to sup­ply prob­lems in European mar­kets.

Port author­i­ties at Patras, the hub for all goods trav­el­ing from Greece to Italy and other west­ern European coun­tries, told Olive Oil Times that cargo con­tain­ers and trucks car­ry­ing agri­cul­tural prod­ucts, includ­ing olive oil, are still being shipped to Italy as usual.

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