Price of milk makes Greeks' blood boil

Thu Nov 22, 2012 12:39pm EST
 
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By Karolina Tagaris and Alan Wheatley

ORCHOMENOS, Greece (Reuters) - To understand why milk costs more in Greek shops than anywhere else in the European Union, Stathis Aravanis's farm is a good place to start.

Tall elm trees screen the 4 hectares (10 acres) of land that Aravanis farms outside the small town of Orchomenos in central Greece, not far from the ancient city of Thebes. The silence is broken only by the sound of grazing cattle and a passing tractor.

Each day 200 or so cows produce 5.5 metric tonnes of milk that he has been selling to Delta, a division of food conglomerate Vivartia, since 1990. Delta, which collects the milk every two days, pays him 45 euro cents a liter.

That is in line with the average farm-gate price in Greece of 44.79 cents, according to Eurostat, the EU's statistics office. Only in Finland, Malta and Cyprus is the price higher.

Aravanis said his running costs made it impossible to produce more cheaply.

His farm is too small for him to grow fodder for his total herd of 440 animals, so he has to buy in clover, maize, oats, hay and soya, which is imported from the United States.

"If the price fell to 40 cents none of us would be able to survive. We are barely getting by at these prices," he said.

Aravanis reserves his harshest criticism for government bureaucrats, who he says make it hard for farmers to obtain land permits to expand and reap economies of scale. "It's not as if cows are going to be grazing in their living room," he said.   Continued...

 
A cow is seen inside an area where the animals are milked at a farm in Orchomenos village, some 140Km (86 miles) north of Athens November 20, 2012. To understand why milk costs more in Greek shops than anywhere else in the European Union, Stathis Aravanis's farm is a good place to start. Each day the 200 cows of Aravanis' farm produce 5.5 tonnes of milk that he has been selling to Delta, a division of food conglomerate Vivartia, since 1990. Delta, which collects the milk every two days, pays him 45 cents a litre. Aravanis said the quality of Greek milk was unbeatable. But he added: " It could be sold a little cheaper. I wish prices could be held down so that the consumer with a family could buy even one more litre of milk. That would be very important for us. " To match Story ECONOMY-GREECE/MILK Picture taken November 20. REUTERS/Yorgos Karahalis