Talk about an agricultural horror story, Crete farmers being forced to throw away thousands of tons of products is also a human tragedy. News that producers had to either feed their excellent crops to livestock or discard it is sad for so many reasons.
In the worst season for everything in recent memory, Crete’s farmers could not sell their crops for the price it cost to produce them this year. Many could not even sell the produce at below the cost of production in this year of COVID-19. And as anyone knows, Cretan tomatoes, oranges, bananas, potatoes, and other fruits and vegetables are extraordinary for their bio and taste qualities.
At Easter, farmers are usually buzzing to fill orders from restaurants, stores, markets, and individuals preparing for the various feasts surrounding the holiday. But not this year. Warehouses stayed full on account of the lockdown and its domino effect on sales. Underconsumption, growers say, ruins the agribusinesses that support so much of the Cretan way of life.
Requests to the Minister of Rural Development have so far gone unheeded, says Fontas Douloumis, president of one of Crete’s regional grower associations. He says the Easter heatwave even caused the shelf life of products to be reduced, which has caused even harder ruin for what would generally be a bounty of agriculture. Nektarios Papadakis, President of the Municipal Committee on Rural Affairs of Ierapetra, also says the ministry needs to act urgently.
With the low expectations for the upcoming tourism reopening, it seems inevitable that demand for these products will continue to bottom out. Many hotels and other businesses will not open despite the tourism ministry’s PR efforts. Businesses across Crete are way too overexposed capital-wise. Simply put, many have zero cash even to support the essential services needed to cater to guests. And Athens has not addressed this issue yet either.
Unfortunately, the government cannot find the resources to purchase the products of these Crete farmers for distribution to families hard-hit by the pandemic. Some kind of food bank or redistribution plan could put thousands of tons of the world’s best agricultural products on tables where people suffer from unemployment, drained bank accounts, and already existing poverty issues—what a waste. Instead of propping up these farmers, officials in Athens bet on hordes of tourists to save the day.