NOVACERT at 1st International Conference on Peach

NOVACERT was dynamically present at the 1st International Conference on Peach which was held with great success in Veroia on May 27th and 28th, 2016, under the first Peach Festival. NOVACERT participated actively in the organization, through its Technical Director, who was a member of the Organizing Committee of the Conference. Mr. Evagelopoulos was also in charge of coordinating the first session on “Plant Protection: Pests – diseases of peach and their treatment” with a very high-level panel composed of Professors Karaoglanidis and Koveos, as well as of Mr. Charkiolakis from Bayer.

Of special interest was the introduction of NOVACERT Commercial Director Mr Ioannis Stergiou in session “Market: Peach on the world markets” on “Quality, the first step in openness”. Mr. Stergiou analyzed the market demand for high quality certified products and the ways in which agricultural production can get added value and come out with a competitive advantage in foreign markets. The Congress was attended by NOVACERT General Manager Mr. Tamparopoulos Athanasios, and EVROFARM President Mr. Chalkidis Vasilis.

Mr. Stergiou’s presentation:

“First of all, I would like to congratulate the Organizing Committee for the excellent organization of the conference. I would also like to congratulate Veroia Tourism Group for the excellent initiative to revive the Production Celebrations and to organize the first Veroia Peach Festival. I trust this initiative be continued and be the starting point so that Veroia Peach Festival becomes a tradition for our city and gives it the prestige it deserves, and to further highlight it as the most important in peach production.

The economic crisis of recent years, which has adversely affected all productive sectors of the Greek Economy, could not leave the food processing sector unaffected. However, despite the difficulties faced, the Agro sector has shown significant resistance, becoming a key pillar of the economy which the much-needed development could be based on.

The primary sector contribution in the economy is high, reaching almost 3% of Greek GDP – twice the proportion of 1.5% of GDP in the EU- 27, and correspondingly high is the participation of the sector in employment rate, with over 12% compared to only 5% in the EU-27. It is characteristic that today, amid crisis, the products produced by the Greek land cover more than 17% of the country’s exports, positively contributing to the trade balance of the country.

All these elements show the importance of the agro-food sector in the Greek economy which significantly explains the trend recently observed for investments in agriculture, a trend that contrasts with the situation in other productive sectors.

According to EU figures for competitiveness, Greece features a significant trade deficit in basic agricultural food products, as imports outweigh exports steadily. Strengthening competitiveness should be based on the business development of the agro-food sector, with special emphasis on the production of safe, high quality, standardized and certified agricultural products which shall find their way to European markets and the markets of the world.

Significant efforts have been made, in the recent years, to control production costs so that we can respond to international competition. At the same time, the requirements of consumption and new nutritional standards, prevailing internationally, have created new quality standards, the most important being the product safety and hygiene, through environmentally friendly production Procedures.

But, what do we perceive as “quality”? Quality is defined as “the set of properties and characteristics of a product or service contributing to its ability to satisfy expressed or implied needs”. So, the concept of quality is a multidimensional expression and may be:

  • All physical and organoleptic characteristics of peach, such as size, color, flavor, aroma, nutritional value, etc.
  • The anticipated desires of the customer.
  • Other features, defined by the consumer, such as package.

Therefore the concept of quality is often subjective and shaped by the demands of the market and consumers. A typical example is the demand for large peaches, whilst recently there has been increased demand for smaller fruit sizes.

Today, despite the economic crisis, consumer demand for quality products remains high, forming a complex relationship between quality and price. So, despite the economic downturn, the majority of consumers still buy food with the basic criterion of quality and value given by the products.

The health and safety standards set by markets coupled with stringent EU environmental legislation require all serious and healthy farms engaged in the production and marketing of peaches to comply with internationally recognized standards and protocols, in response to the high quality standards of their clients.

This results in enhancing the competitiveness of Greek peaches, fresh or processed, by introducing it into the consciousness of buyers, as a product of highest safety and quality.

Already since the late 90’s, export profile companies of our area, hearkening to market requirements, proceeded, firstly in Greece, to the establishment of Integrated Management, Good Agricultural Practice and Safety and Food Hygiene Systems in the production process. Concepts such as production through certified production processes have become intertwined with the quality and terminologies such as Global Gap, ISO, BRC, IFS, Integrated management have been identified with it.

In addition, EU policies highlight the quality and link it with the production place. In this case, we are talking about the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO – PDO) and Geographical Indication Products (PGI – PGI). These products are the most powerful trump card in a highly competitive international environment and help create added value.

Greece currently detains 103 PDO and PGI products in total 1,489 across Europe. Although our country ranks 5th in the European Union garnering 8.4% of the total number of branded “guaranteed” products, though, its share of the total value of the European market is below 5%, mainly because there is a low degree of processing, standardization and exports. At this point, it should be noted that in the prefecture of Imathia the PDO Naoussa peach is registered, but referring to a limited area of Naoussa and to specific varieties, which makes it imperative to explore the possibilities to include another or other names to cover a wider area of production of 90% of the Greek peach.

Production of agricultural products through certified quality systems and the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) are the stepping stones. But the elevation of their quality excellence is the key to the conquest of European markets, and not only. Extroversion of Greek agricultural products should be a must and is what will boost their competitiveness and establish them in the global markets.

Recent EU policies have been encouraging extroversion and finance such actions, which has significantly contributed to export growth for the benefit of Greek farmers and the Greek economy in general.

The evaluation of the results of such policies, during the first phase, has resulted in the finding that the competitiveness of agricultural produce was reinforced. So, the new Regulation (EU) Nr 1144/2014 of the European Parliament and Council which came into force on 12/2015 gradually increases the budget from € 60,000,000 to € 200,000,000 by 2019, encouraging extroversion actions for agricultural products.

According to Incofruit data, there is an increase in exports of agricultural products by 11.9% in value and by 4.9% in volume. Moreover, Greece is the third largest peache producer among the EU-28 after Italy and Spain, ranking among the top five exporting countries to several destinations.

Also, Greece still maintains the world’s lead in exports of canned peaches, covering 50% of the global market.

Successful and effective use of promotional programs over the years has led the Greek peach in export growth. The period 2009 to 2012, with the slogan “Greece and Europe lunch us” the OPOM Consortium, with distinctive title ELFRUT, introduced the peach in the Russian and Ukrainian markets.

In the next three years 2012-2015 the campaign with the slogan “Think Peach” boosting exports to certain countries won, in 2014, 2nd place in exports to the Russian market and 1st place in Ukrainian market.

Certainly, the known problems that prevailed the next time and which related to geostrategic conflicts in the region, also caused the a significant loss in these two markets, a fact urging more than ever to make efforts to find new markets through promotional programs.

Thus, new programs to new target countries began to be implemented in 2015, including the program under slogan “Freschano” to promote peach compost in Mexico, Iran and Egypt and the program implemented by producer groups of Imathia Consortium for the Promotion of Fresh peach in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Kuwait and the slogan “Peach Garden”.

Last but not least, I would like to point out once again that the production of quality products is undoubtedly an important asset, but is not enough by itself. As I mentioned in the title of my presentation, quality is just the first step for the extroversion of Greek Peach. All stakeholders should make all necessary changes to the structure, organization and openness of the sector through systematic and targeted actions. Furthermore, we need to find new ways of economies of scale and to concentrate on production and management to be carried out by purely export-oriented specialized companies. All the above could increase the competitiveness of Greek Peach, to give it its well-deserved place in the global market.”