Greece: 15 Things You Never Knew

Greece is one of the most historic and well-known countries in the world, along with being a top vacation choice for anyone visiting Europe. Not only does it offer beautiful landscapes and plenty of sunshine, but those of us who appreciate history have a lot to learn from this significant country. We are here to tell you some lesser known facts about the ancient nation. Come back soon for part two.


Number Fifteen: It’s About the Size of Alabama

Greece is roughly the same size as this American state. However, its population (10 million plus) is more than double Alabama’s (about 4.5 million).

Number Fourteen: 13th Century Olive Trees

They are the world’s leading olive producers, which you probably knew. But did you know that there are trees that date back as far as the 13th century that are still yielding olives? That is pretty amazing.

Number Thirteen: Greece Is Almost Entirely Mountainous

A staggering amount (80%) of the country is covered by mountainous terrain. It is because of this that they have no navigable rivers there.
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Food Flags

When you think of French food, smelly cheese and grapes are probably the first things that come to mind. As is pasta at the mention of Italian cuisine, or curry when asked about Indian gastronomy. Olives and feta cheese celebrate their Greek origins and spicy orange and red curries remind viewers of Indian and Indonesian flavours.

So it’s not hard to see why these commonly associated foods have been plated up alongside others to recreate some of the world’s national flags in a collection of photographs.

Food Flags

The Australian company behind the images chose meat pie and sauce to represent its home nation, making sure to cut out star-shaped holes in the pie’s crust to stick to the flag’s design while France’s Tricoleur is completed by brie, blue cheese and grapes. More adventurous creations are seen in Thailand’s blue swimmer crab, shredded coconut and sweet chilli sauce – three local delicacies that are best served separately perhaps. Basil, pasta and tomatoes, three of the most common ingredients in Italian cuisine are used to represent the country’s green, white and red flag, while Japan’s well known red dot is formed by raw tuna on a bed of rice. Spain’s civil flag is identified by its chorizo and paella rice. Unsurprisingly, Turkish delight was used to represent it’s national namesake as was Swiss cheese, often known as Emmental. More exotic foods were sourced for the display such as South Korean kimbap, which resembles Japanese sushi but uses sesame oil to flavour rice rather than vinegar. Lebanese lavash, a soft, thin flatbread, is served with fattoush which is a bread salad made of sliced pita and vegetables.

Ahead of the Sydney International Food Festival, the company has released photographs of their efforts which cleverly serve up 17 national flags made entirely from international delicacies. The agency, WHYBIN/TBWA, is making preparations ahead of the festival’s opening in October, when hundreds of thousands are expected to gather to celebrate global cuisine for a whole month.

The festival is the largest of its kind in Australia and attracted close to 1million foodies last year. Its highlights are the Night Noodle Market and Breakfast on Bondi which invites enthusiasts to the most important meal of the day on the fames stretch of beach.

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Everything you wanted to know about olives

– The olive tree, Oleaeuropaea, is native to countries in Asia and Africa and along the Mediterranean Sea.
– Unripe olives are green in color and as they ripen they turn black or dark purple.
– Olives are a fruit, not vegetables as many people believe.
– Olive oil contains no cholesterol, salt or carbohydrate.
– Olives are rich in vitamin E and healthy fats.
– An olive tree can live up to 600 years.
– It can take up to 10 years for an olive tree to bear fruit.
– Globally, people consume approximately 2.25 million tonnes of olive oil each year.
– Spain, Italy and Greece are the top olive producing nations in the world.
– Since 1990, consumption of olive oil in the United States has increased significantly. In the last two decades, its consumption has increased from 30 million gallons to nearly 70 million gallons a year.
– 2,550 olive branches were used at the 2004 Olympics Games when the tradition of crowning Olympians with an olive wreath was reintroduced.


Hear what our expert has to say

“Olives, whether eaten whole or as olive oil, offer exceptional health properties. Olives contain an abundance of antioxidants, protective disease fighting compounds found in plants. Few other foods with high fat content offer such a wide range of antioxidant nutrients. All these elements combine to reduce excessive inflammation and keep the body healthy. They also work to neutralise the damaging effects of free radicals on the body’s cells, which can contribute to disease and ill health. Despite being high in fat, olive oil is a better choice compared to other oils for your heart. The majority of fat found in olives is monounsaturated fatty acid and oleic acid, both healthy forms of fat. These elements suppress the production of unhealthy cholesterol which has been shown to play a role in the development of cardiovascular disease. Even though monounsaturated fat is good for your heart, it is still high in calories. So it should be consumed only in moderate amounts if you are concerned about weight gain and excess calorie intake.

Care must be taken when using olive oil for frying. Shallow frying is safe; but with deep frying and intense heating the olive oil is heated beyond its smoke point and starts to break down chemically. This results in the oil losing most of its antioxidants, releasing toxic chemicals in the form of smoke and producing free radicals (atoms that damage healthy cell).”

Contributed by Aisha Pookunju, Dietitian at Hamad Medical Corporation


USDA Marketing Order Provides Ingredients for Olive Industry’s Success

Posted by Mike Durando, Agricultural Marketing Service Fruit and Vegetable Program Marketing Order and Agreement Division Director, on April 16, 2015 at 1:00 PM

Each industry has its own recipe for success. For the ripe olive industry, the recipe for success includes many ingredients. This includes a commitment to consistency, marketing, and research. These factors help the nearly 1,000 family farms from California supply 95 percent of the ripe olives grown in the U.S.

usda1The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) provides the ripe olive industry many of the ingredients for its success. One of the ways we do this is by overseeing the federal marketing order for olives grown in California, which is administered locally by the California Olive Committee. Federal marketing orders and agreements are requested by various groups in the U.S. produce industry to help growers and handlers within a geographic region to overcome marketing barriers and increase awareness of the commodity. Industry groups get together to decide the tools needed to support the commercial and financial success of the businesses in the industry.

Whether it was wearing and eating olive rings as children or using them later on when making a tapenade spread, olive lovers always have the same fond memories. A good reason for this is because the California olive marketing order provides standards for cans of ripe olives. The olive standards specify that USDA employees inspect canned, ripe olives to ensure consumers enjoy the same eating experience, can after can, no matter what form the olives take – whole, pitted, sliced, wedged, or chopped.

One of the ways that the industry maintains this consistency is through the help of the marketing order’s Section 8e requirement. This requires imports of olives and other select commodities to meet the same or comparable grade, size, quality, and maturity requirements as commodities produced within the United States. “The Section 8e requirement has really helped our industry,” said California Olive Committee Executive Director Alexander Ott. “It levels the playing field for our growers and handlers in California but it also ensures consumers are eating quality olives – a win for all.”

usda2The U.S. olive industry uses the order’s marketing and research provisions in a number of ways. Olive lovers can visit the California Olive Committee’s website to find a wealth of information that includes delicious recipes, cooking tips, videos, and much more. The industry has conducted a number of production and marketing research projects which not only improve olive production, but help find new marketing opportunities for California olives. Continue reading

Olive growers go from frying pan to fire

HOT and dry weather throughout Australia’s south has olive farmers nervous after last year’s devastating harvest.


A heatwave earlier this month saw temperatures soar past 45C in Adelaide and 40C in Melbourne, placing further pressure on plantations, which already suffered from a drier than usual December according to Olives South Australia president Michael Johnston.

Just 6mm of rain fell in Adelaide in December, less than half the amount from 2013. And although isolated rain of up to 40-50mm fell on parts of South Australia and Victoria in the past week, for many farmers the damage is done.

Temperatures are again expected to climb into the high 30s for both states by Tuesday.



Olive oil about to get a lot more expensive

NEW YORK, Dec 7 — New research from Harvard University suggests it could put years on your life.

But a Mediterranean diet rich in pungent olive oil does not come cheap, and it is just about to get a lot more expensive. Disastrous olive harvests in much of southern Europe have sent wholesale prices shooting up, meaning consumers around the world are going to have to get used to paying substantially more for a culinary staple prized equally by gourmets and physicians. Nowhere has the impact of freakish summer weather been felt more painfully than in Tuscany and Umbria, where the subtly aromatic, extra-virgin oils reaped from timeless landscapes provide the industry’s global benchmark for quality. In Spain, which last year accounted for half the world’s production of all grades of olive oil, a toxic cocktail of scorching temperatures, drought and bacteria is expected to halve output this year.


A silent press

A different bacteria threatens to decimate olive groves in southern Italy. In the heartland of poshly-packaged oils that connoisseurs discuss like fine wines, it was a humble fly that wreaked havoc after being handed optimal breeding conditions by the erratic climate. At Fiesole, in the heart of Tuscany’s “Chiantishire”—so called because of its rich British ex-patriots—Cesare Buonamici’s olive processing facilities should be whirring at full capacity. Instead, thanks to the olive fly, the sophisticated presses and extraction machines lie dormant for lack of the organically-cultivated fruit that would normally keep them busy until nearly Christmas. “Our production has been halved,” the former engineer says gloomily. Figures from the International Olive Council suggest wholesale prices of Italian oil have risen 37 per cent from 2013, but Buonamici warns the rise for top quality oils like his will be steeper. “Those are the prices ex-press,” he told AFPTV. “For the final consumer the increase is likely to be more than 60 per cent.”

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6 Health Secrets of Greek Food

Shivangana Vasudeva, NDTV, Modified: December 08, 2014 13:30 IST

490451511Beautiful blue waters, sun-soaked beaches and white-walled towns, Greece is unmatched for its breathtaking landscapes. While that may have taken many of you miles away, my fantasy is incomplete without Greek food. During those long lunches and balmy alfresco dinners, I see myself feasting on some of the finest ingredients in the world. Whether it’s a fresh Greek salad, the famous fava dip or a lovely spinach pie, the Greek table offers a variety of colours and flavours.

For a health freak, who is as paranoid about the health quotient as the flavour, it was love at first bite. Greek cuisine is served with a rich history of about 4000 years. When I recently caught up with Chef Paris Kostopoulos from Greece, I could easily agree that Greek food goes beyond the pleasures of simple eating. There was coffee, curiosity and a whole lot of chatter. I discovered that there is a lot that we can learn from the Greeks when it comes to healthy eating.

By now, you’ve probably heard about the miraculous Mediterranean diet. Most health experts claim that it is one of the healthiest diets to follow and there’s ample scientific evidence to prove that. A Harvard study shows that switching to a Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart disease by 30%. It has also been named as the ‘longevity diet’.(Why the Mediterranean Diet Beats All Others)

Here’s our take away from what the Greeks have done right and six reasons to love their cuisine. Continue reading

Celery and Olives Dominated Thanksgiving for Nearly 100 Years—Until They Didn’t

Sweet potatoes. Turkey. Cranberries. Pumpkins. Stuffing. These are the foods Americans think of when they think of Thanksgiving. But for nearly a century, two unlikely foods were absolute must-haves on every traditional Thanksgiving menu.

CELERY_Fitchburg_Sentinel_Sat__Oct_1__1910_Celery and olives.

From the late 1800s until the 1960s, these two foods—which usually only come together in the murky depths of a Bloody Mary—were a must on seasonally decorated tables in homes across America. Fix yourself a cocktail—extra celery, extra olives—as you witness the rise and fall of the menu items for which Americans were once the most thankful. Until, all of a sudden, they weren’t.

Discovering “Sellery”

Back in 1779, a Connecticut girl named Juliana Smith wrote to her “Dear Cousin Betsey” describing the Thanksgiving meal she had just enjoyed. The menu included: “pigeon pasties,” “suet pudding,” “plumbs and cherries,” as well as a new and exotic vegetable which Smith described to Betsey as “one which I do not believe you have yet seen.” She went on: “Uncle Simeon had imported the Seede from England just before the war began and only this year was there enough for table use. It is called Sellery & you eat it without cooking.”

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Croatian Olive Growers Face a Disappointing Harvest

By ISABEL PUTINJA on October 20, 2014

The olive harvest has started earlier than usual in the Croatian olive-growing regions of Istria and Dalmatia, bringing disappointing yields for producers. While 2013 was a record year for the Croatian olive harvest, local olive growers are facing a poor crop this time around.


Following a rainy summer with less than average temperatures, olive trees have been ravaged by the olive fruit fly (Bactrocera oleae) which thrives in such climatic conditions. This pest is a serious threat to olive growers, causing the attacked fruit to fall prematurely and impacting the quantity and quality of olive oil produced.

Davor Zanini, an oil mill owner in the Istrian peninsula, told the regional newspaper Glas Istre that local oil producers are facing a particularly bad harvest and, despite their hard work, are getting less olive oil from their crop than expected. While 10 kilograms of olives usually produce a liter of oil, this year 12 to 13 kilograms are needed because of the poor quality fruit.

Though the Croatian olive harvest this year is overall very disappointing compared to previous years, there are a few regions which have had good yields. Ivica Ljubenkov, president of the Association of Croatian Olive Oil Growers and Producers (Zajednice maslinara i uljara Hrvatske) told Croatian news portal that some small areas of Dalmatia known for their high-quality olive oil were spared the wrath of the olive fruit fly, like the coastal town of Skradin and Vela Luka on the western part of the island of Korčula.

An increase in consumer prices for Croatian olive oil is likely to be the result of this year’s poor olive harvest.


Spanish Scientists Awarded for Research on Olive Cultivation

By IVÁN L. GIMENO on October 30, 2014
Filed in European Union

The results of the second Scientific Research in Olives and Olive Oil Awards, sponsored by the Caja Rural of Jaén Foundation, were announced during a conference in the Andalusian capital today. The Spanish scientific researchers Mercedes Campos and Mario Porcel were awarded the €5,000 prize.


Geolit, the technological and scientific park of Jaén located in Mengíbar, was the venue of this event, whose jury decided to elect the research “Bioecological Study of the Chrysopidae Family in Olive Orchards: a Population Growth and Conservation Perspective,” written by both scientists as the winning choice.

The second prize was granted to the work of three young Spanish scientists, Javier Sanz, Manuel David García and Manuel Barneo for their study “Jaén´s Mountain Oliva Oil: Quality and Value Chain,” awarded with €2,000. Finally, the jury also decided to give a special mention to the research “Prospective, Study and Evaluation of the Mosses as Vegetal Cover in Jaén´s Oliva Oil Fields,” written by the team composed by Susana Rams, Milagros Saavedra and Cristina Alcántara.

This is the second edition of the awards, which are recognized in the Spanish olive oil industry. It is promoted by Caja Rural of Jaén Foundation to recognize studies by researchers who are contributing to advances in scientific knowledge related to the olive. It includes aspects such as how the elaboration process of the olive oil contributes to the social, economic and environmental improvement of the country

Aspects like the quality and the adaptation of the methodology in the research to obtain valid results, and their relevance to people and their usefulness were key to select the winners. The jury was presided by Manuel Parras (rector of the Jaén University) and included Francisco Molina (secretary of the Caja Rural of Jaén Foundation), Mercedes Fernández (head of the technical and chemistry & standardization units of the International Olive Council), Gabriel Beltrán (in charge of the research department at IFAPA) and Carlos Piniña (representative of the Andalusian Agricultural Engineers College).

A conference with the title “Jaén´s Olive Oil and Sovena Group: Leading the Present and Building The Future,” was also conducted at the event by Luis Folqué.


In Praise of the Olive

Olive-tree communication‘‘… the fruit of the olive tree is a great boon for everything needed in life…’’
Athenian lawgiver, 640 – 560 B.C.

Since antiquity the olive tree has a permanent presence in the landscape of Greece, in the daily life and habits of its people. The culture of the olive tree and its products deeply influenced the civilization of ancient and modern Greeks, and has played an important role not only in the Greek economy, but in all the aspects of Greek civilization, historical, folkloric, traditional, medicinal and artistic.
During older times had been by mistake claimed that its cultivation was transferred in Greece from Palestine. New elements from an analysis of pollen gives evidence for the olive trees presence on the Hellenic space since the Neolithic era. Systematic cultivation of olive trees has been certified during the Minoan period in different places in Greece.
Furthermore, the small plates of Linear A and B from the palaces of Knossos, Pylos and Mycenae testify its economic importance during 14th & 13th centuries B.C. Ancient vessels from Crete with olives and olive-kernels, the depiction from 16th century B.C. of an olive grove at the Cretan Knossos Palace, the traces of oleaster and the fossilized leaves found on the island of Aegean, Santorini – dating back some 50,000 / 60,000 years, the golden glasses with the anaglyph olive-trees from the 16th B.C. Mycenean tomb of Vafi in Sparta-Laconia, the planted by the mythical hero Hercules olive tree in the holy location of Olympia, the mythological tradition of Athena’s and Poseidon’s conflict for the name of Athens city and the offer of olive tree / symbol of reconciliation and peace, against the horse / symbol of war, and the salty water/symbol of sea, the golden holy olive tree of Apollo in Delos, the crowned by olive-branch statue of Zeus in Olympia – a Feidias’ sculpture, the Panathenaic amphorae with the cultivation of olive trees, leave no doubt as to the role of the olive in ancient Greece, and that the present day perceptions of the olive are profoundly shaped by the ancient past. Continue reading

The olive: History & Production

The Olive tree dates back to early ancient times in both biblical and classical writings. In these early writings, the olive oil is referenced as a symbol of both goodness and purity, and the tree represents peace and happiness. In ancient times, the oil was also burnt in sacred lamps at temples during the Olympic Games, and the victor was crowned with its leaves.


Olives have been cultivated since prehistoric times in Asia Minor. Today olives are commercially produced in Spain, Italy, France, Greece, Tunisia, Morocco, Turkey, Portugal, China, Chile, Peru, Brazil, Mexico, Angola, South Africa, Uruguay, Afghanistan, Australia, New Zealand, and California. The Mediterranean area produces 93% of the olive production. Currently there are some 800 million olive trees being cultivated. California is the only state where olives are grown commercially. Over 90% of the olive production is used to make olive oil.

The Olive tree is considered an evergreen tree. These trees can live to be over 2,000 years old. They grow 20-40 feet high and begin to bear fruit between 4 and 8 years old. The tree blooms with small whitish flowers and have a wonderful fragrant.

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How The Olive Compound Hydroxytyrosol Helps Stop Infections

A compound found naturally in olives helps fight bacterial infections, according to an international patent application by Spanish scientists.

They say hydroxytyrosol and derivatives of it can disrupt quorum sensing (QS) – a way in which bacteria ‘talk’ to each other – thereby making infections less virulent. With antibiotic resistance increasing, this is seen as a promising way of treatment.

Madrid-based patent applicant Seprox Biotech, which sells hydroxytyrosol (HT), claims that HT and its derivatives hydroxytyrosol acetate (HTA) and 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC) have good anti-QS activity, making them useful for preventing and treating many kinds of infections.


Potential usage

It said in its application that in vivo uses could include pharmaceutical preparations for the treatment of bacterial infection. Ex vivo uses include in the manufacture of food, food packaging, medical devices and pharmaceutical compositions, including application to or use in the making of surfaces – such as in medical devices and foods or food packaging – to inhibit formation of bacterial biofilm.

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And the flowers turn into olive fruits …

We offer you photos of premature olive fruits, weeks after the blossoming of the Chalkidiki olive trees in Banavas Estate ©.

Quality is monitored and assessed from the early stages of the olive fruit development used for the production of Inolivia © products.20140616_122855

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Table Olive Processing (Method 1)

fermentationThis method is similar to the natural fermentation process we use. It allows the sugars in the olives to ferment and form lactic acid. The end result will be well worth the effort and the wait. All the wonderful flavours are preserved and this gives the olives its delicious taste.

 Green Olives:

  • Green olives are soaked in a caustic soda solution of between 1,3 and 2,6% for ±15 hours. The time may vary according to the size and ripeness of the fruit. After a few hours, take out an olive and make a cut through the flesh. When the lye has penetrated two thirds of the distance between the surface of the fruit and the pit, it is ready to be washed.
  • Also try to prevent the olives from coming into contact with air, as this can cause the colour to go dark or an unattractive khaki green. Keep in an airtight container (stainless steel, glass or high grade plastic will not affect the taste) through the entire process.
  • In the mean time prepare the brine by dissolving 1 kilogram of salt in 10 litres of clean water.
  • Now rinse the olives many times with clean, cold water to remove soapiness and caustic residue. This step is very important, because you don’t want your olives to taste of caustic soda or “soapy”.
  • Place the olives into a suitable container and cover completely with the brine. Make sure the container has a tight fitting lid.
  • Leave to ferment ±12 months. Taste them from time to time and decide for yourself when they are to your taste.

Bottling: Remove from the brine, rinse with clean water and place into glass jars and cover with hot brine. To make the brine solution: 20g Salt mixed into 1 liter boiling water. Cover immediately and leave to cool. Store in a cool place and refrigerate after opening.  Wine vinegar may be added to taste. You may even add sprigs of fresh herbs like rosemary or thyme or a few cloves of garlic or lemon slices.

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Where do the ancient olive trees originate from?

We beleive that Dr. Halit Yerebakan answers his own question through his own document. 
Check all the references he is making to Greece, Greeks and Crete. 
In good mood,
Dr. Georgios Banavas 

Dr. Halit Yerebakan09 June 2014, Monday (Source:
Did you know that ancient olive trees originated in Turkey?Well, at least that’s according to my knowledge. Olive trees have made a great impact on the civilizations of the Mediterranean for more than 4,000 years. Olives provide people with food, medicines and nourishing creams. Olives were not only cultivated here in Turkey, they were actually widespread and covered the Mediterranean coast. From Syria to Tunisia, from Greece to Italy, and from Crete to Spain, olives have been cultivated for more than 4,000 years. It was surprising for me to learn the leafy branches of olive trees were even found in Tutankhamen’s tomb. Although Hippocrates called olive oil “the great therapeutic,” in ancient Greece women used olive oil for cosmetic reasons as well. Olive oil was used on ancient Greek women’s skin and hair after bathing as protection from the elements and to maintain a pleasant fragrance.

Moreover, olive oil was also mixed with grounded charcoal to create an eye shadow. The olive tree, or its branch, has been seen as a symbol of peace, victory and the endurance of life itself throughout history for most Mediterranean people. They say that it actually evokes feelings of harmony, vitality, and health. To be honest, my family is one of those who believe in the beneficial effects and beauty of olive trees. The leafy branches of the olive tree were used in powerful figures as emblems of faith and purification. Moreover, the branches were ritually offered to gods as well.

There was magic in olive trees for sure. But it is hard to explain why they were used as symbols of victory, be it when crowns were fashioned for the winners of friendly games or the victors of bloody wars.

Olive oil was so precious that it was used to massage kings and athletes in ancient Greece. Greeks used the dried branches to burn in the blessed lamps of temples, also known as the “eternal flame,” which has become a symbol of the Olympic Games.

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The Apple, Then the Olive

Most people know the story of Adam and Eve and the apple in the mythical Garden of Eden. But not as many know that the olive has a history almost as old as civilization. Carbon-dating has shown that a Spanish olive seed is 8,000 years old.

It is said that Noah’s Ark brought back an olive branch from Mount Arafat; that Athens got its name from Athena, who won a contest among the gods for the honour of naming the city by striking the ground and bringing forth the olive tree; and that a sacred olive tree was planted at the Acropolis to honour the occasion.

olivetreeinerechthionAncient Greeks used olive oil in salads and also anointed their bodies with the oil. It was also the basis for almost all Greek cuisine.

According to former ambassador Eleftherios Anghelopoulos, who retired from his posting in Ottawa in May 2014, there is evidence the olive tree was first cultivated in Neolithic Crete. The huge storage jars used back then may still be seen at Knossos. An olive grower himself, Anghelopoulos said during a talk at this year’s Ottawa Travel and Vacation Show that Greeks attribute longevity not only to olive oil but to moderation in everything they do.

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Olive Oil, Honey Could Help Lift Greece Out of Recession

iFM0QgSNILGoGreek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is calling on manufacturers of traditional foods and beverages, from fish-roe producers to honey makers, to play a bigger role in transforming the country into an export economy.

Greece, which saw exports fall 0.2 percent to 27.3 billion euros ($37.5 billion) in 2013, needs food and beverage companies to catch up with export-oriented industries like fuels and do more to help pull the country out of a six-year recession, Samaras told industry representatives on the island of Lesvos May 13.

More Greek food companies, some of whom were forced to look for sales outside their traditional home market as the crisis shrank the economy, should focus “on processing agricultural produce in order to bring Greek products to international markets,” Samaras said. “Today, 200 large companies account for 85 percent of production while 17,000 small and medium-sized companies have huge potential.”

elies-agrotesGreek exports of agricultural products including food, beverages and vegetable oils rose 3.5 percent by value in 2013 to 4.75 billion euros, according to the Panhellenic Exporters Association. At around 17 percent of the total value of Greek exports, the food and beverage industry trails fuels and industrial goods like machinery and chemical products as the country’s top export category.

Greece’s economy contracted at its slowest pace in four years in the first quarter, the Hellenic Statistical Authority said May 15. The European Commission forecasts that Greek GDP will grow 0.6 percent this year, its first annual expansion since 2007.