he 9th Panhellenic Congress for the Development of Greek Agriculture by GAIA EPICHEIREIN, which took place on Monday 17 July with a thematic focus on “Greek agriculture towards 2030: achieving sustainability with the support of the CAP”, was completed with great success and the participation of representatives from the entirety of the agri-food sector.
More than 3.000 participants watched live and online 31 distinguished speakers from Greece and the European Union address key issues such as: strengthening the sustainability and resilience of European and Greek agriculture against the major challenges of climate change and geopolitical upheavals, the relevant support from the CAP 2023-2027, as well as the necessary national strategic choices and best practices in terms of optimal use of the CAP toolbox by EU Member States. At the same time, the need to produce more –and better– with less through the green and digital transition of the production process was also discussed, while ways to boost the outreach and competitiveness of Greek agricultural products were analyzed.
During his opening address, Mr. Christodoulos Antoniadis, President of GAIA EPICHEIREIN, referred, inter alia, to current and future challenges and clearly indicated that we cannot allow ourselves to disregard the future. “The future is already here, and the challenge of the sustainability and resilience of Greek agriculture must be addressed. If we do not refocus our strategies, if we do not look for solutions today, making the best use of the CAP toolbox, every day will only count against us,” he said.
“With this Congress we want to look to the immediate and more distant future and identify challenges, opportunities and solutions” he concluded.
Among the institutional representatives who delivered addresses at the 9th Panhellenic Congress were Christiana Kalogirou, Secretary General of the Ministry of Rural Development and Food, Alexis Charitsis, Member of Greek parliament, SYRIZA-PA & former Minister of Internal Affairs, Georgios Patoulis, Governor of the Region of Attica, Giannis Pazios, Secretary on Digital Policy & Μember of the Central Political Committee of PASOK – KINAL, and Spyridon Kintzios, Rector of the Agricultural University of Athens.
Ms Kalogirou, speaking on behalf of Minister Avgenakis, said that the Congress is an institution that contributes to public dialogue, while she stressed the need for consultation and cooperation to strategically address the challenges and opportunities for Greek agriculture, involving the scientific community, businesses, the public sector, and civil society. Mr Charitsis pointed out that innovation, knowledge, and digitization are prerequisites for the sustainability and resilience of the primary sector, stressing that this has already been proven both in practice and politically through the CAP objectives. “The conclusions of the Congress can provide material for policy making”, stated Mr Pazios, while Mr Kintzios urged to showcase the qualities of Greek products. Finally, Mr Patoulis announced the establishment of the Agri-Food Partnership of Attica for the strengthening of the local agri-food chain, where GAIA EPICHEIREIN will be a major shareholder.
In the panel session “How to enhance the sustainability of EU and Greek agriculture with the support of the CAP”, speakers involved Paolo de Castro, Member, European Parliament, former Chairman, Committee on Agriculture & Rural Development, European Parliament, Former Minister of Agriculture of Italy, Yves Madre, President, FARM EUROPE, Tassos Haniotis, Senior Guest Research Scholar, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), former Director, DG for Agriculture & Rural Development, European Commission, Ioannis Chaniotakis, Senior Director, Agricultural Sector Development, Piraeus Bank Group, and Pierre Bascou, Deputy Director-General, DG Agriculture & Rural Development, European Commission.
Mr de Castro, spoke about the latest developments on the Brussels front, stating that after a tough political battle, bovines were finally excluded from the scope of the industrial emissions directive at the last plenary session of the European Parliament, and announcing the conclusion of the negotiations on geographical indications, a legislative framework that will give “more power, more protection and more simplification to a growing economy, the PDO economy, whose turnover in Europe has now exceeded €80 billion”. As for Mr Madre, he spoke about the CAP and the challenges it faces in terms of its implementation, budget, and future, but also about the need to ensure that the next European Parliament and the next European Commission will design and implement policies that will take into account not only the environmental/climatic but also the economic dimension of agriculture. Mr Haniotis demonstrated, through his presentation, the significant contribution of the CAP over time, in terms of the positive trade balance of the EU agri-food sector, in agricultural income (although in Greece the index is lower), while stressing the need for the policy to move with greater determination towards climate neutrality, without ignoring the economic dimension of agricultural activity. Mr Chaniotakis, for his part, stressed the importance of the CAP as a means of supporting and financing the agricultural sector, through smart financial tools that would guarantee favorable lending terms for farmers from the banks, noting that, based on data from Piraeus Bank, the financing provided to women and young farmers has increased.
“We live in a context marked by many uncertainties and multi-dimensional challenges,” said Mr Bascou. “These challenges have led the EU to commit to a progressive and irreversible transition towards sustainability and resilience, and clearly aim to change the way we produce and consume. At farm level, this means producing more with less”. At the same time, he underlined the long-term importance of horizontal cooperation between producers in the framework of Producer Organizations supported with special tools by the CAP, while he stressed the crucial role of horizontal cooperation between farmers not only for the creation of economies of scale and the productive and commercial development of sectors, but also for the diffusion of knowledge and innovation among the rural population.
Next, in the panel session “CAP 2023-2027: IACS and innovative tools for the green and digital transition”, Evangelia Mourmoura, Team Leader, Digitalization, DG Agriculture & Rural Development, European Commission, discussed the objectives and tools of the CAP related to the digitization of agriculture and rural areas of the EU, while highlighting the importance, in the context of the common European data spaces for agriculture planned by the Commission, of an optimized and secure use of data through systems such as the IACS in order to enhance the work of public administration as well as the digital transition of the agricultural sector. As she stressed, “the value of data should return back to the producers” through added value services for their farms.
“In the new CAP, digital transformation is a horizontal objective. The producer is required to use technology to be able to make better and more efficient decisions”, explained Ioannis Mavroudis, Executive Director, NEUROPUBLIC, a major sponsor of the event, while he analyzed the role of smart farming and, namely, the gaiasense system, which provides tangible solutions for farms to achieve economic and environmental/climatic objectives.
Manos Sdrakas, Director, advisory services NOVAPLAN, Member of BoD, GAIA EPICHEIREIN, spoke about the ambitious goals for 2030 and the multiple challenges that lead to changes in the production process, not only at regulatory level but also at the level of the high demands set by the market itself, which often exceed those of the regulatory framework. Giannis Pazios, in his role as Director General of the Agricultural Cooperative «Messinia Union», argued that “the aid claim through the IACS system is the digital passport of the producer” and pointed out that when we talk about digitization, we mainly want reliable data and an informed and skilled producer, stressing that Greece is lagging behind in terms of digital transformation. Concluding the session, the moderator, Dimitris Kapnias, Senior Manager, Large Scale Projects, NEUROPUBLIC, emphasized that “digitization is not something to be ordered but to be conquered” with appropriate policies and initiatives from all sides.
In the panel session “Sectorial strategies to strengthen the market potential of agricultural products”, the keynote speaker was Gabriel Trenzado Falcon, Director General, Cooperativas Agro-Alimentarias de Espana, who summarized that “agricultural policy equals economic policy”, while explaining the strategy for the growth of agricultural cooperatives that Spain has been following since the previous CAP, using funds from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) as an incentive for this purpose. His intervention was followed by sub-sessions at sectoral level, starting with Maria Gkoulta, Project Manager, Collective Projects Department, AGRON SA, Georgios Perogiannakis, President, Olivegrowing Agricultural Cooperative of Embaros, and Georgios Oikonomou, Director General, Association of Greek Olive Oil Standardization Industries (SEVITEL) who spoke about the challenges and opportunities for the strategic development in olive products.
Then, Angeliki Lagogianni, Agronomist, Rural Development & Project Management department, GAIA EPICHEIREIN, Chlearchos Sarantidis, Director General, Union of Agricultural Cooperatives of Kavala, and Enzo Filardo, President, Producer Organization OP Natura, Regional Vice-President for Calabria, Confcooperative, discussed challenges and opportunities for farmers and agri-cooperatives the fruit and vegetable sector, while Maria Korre, Agronomist, Rural Development & Project Management department, GAIA EPICHEIREIN and Efthimis Foteinos, President, Interprofessional Organization of Cotton discussed the cotton production sector. Irini Prodromidou, Agronomist, Rural Development & Project Management department, GAIA EPICHEIREIN, and Panagiotis Peveretos, President, Hellenic Livestock Breeders Association (SEK) talked about milk and dairy products.
The Congress concluded with a roundtable discussion on “Greek agriculture 2030: strategic priorities for the sustainability and growth potential of Greek agriculture” with the participation of Spyridon Kintzios, Rector, Agricultural University of Athens (AUA), Napoleon Maravegias, Deputy Rector of Administrative Affairs, UoA, Emeritus Professor, Department of Political Science and Public Administration, Faculty of Economics and Political Sciences, UoA, Spyros Danellis, Coordinator, Unit of European Policy, Central Political Secretariat, SYRIZA-PA, former Member, Greek Parliament, former Member, European Parliament, Athanasios Petropoulos, Secretary, Rural Development and Food, PASOK-KINAL, Member, Steering Committee, Regional Department of Peloponnese & Western Central Greece, Geotechnical Chamber of Greece (GEOT.E.E.), and George Katsoulis, President, Association of Agricultural Cooperative Organizations and Enterprises of Greece (SASOEE)
The roundtable participants agreed on the need to prioritize knowledge and innovation, horizontal cooperation, and policies for the preservation of the countryside and the renewal of the agricultural profession as a prerequisite for the sustainable development of Greek agriculture. At the same time, they stressed the need to put agricultural issues at the centre of the agenda of the next European elections and for the political parties to address them strategically.
Concluding the session, Elli Tsiforou, CEO of GAIA EPICHEIREIN announced that in the coming months, in cooperation with Mr Kintzios, Mr Maravegias, Mr Danellis, Mr Katsoulis as well as other prominent figures and experts in the field, initiatives will be undertaken in this direction.
Furthermore, in the framework of the conference, Nikos Marianos, Senior Project Manager, GAIA EPICHEIREIN, presented the results of the Ploutos project as well as the technological solutions that have been developed and implemented in 3 pilot sustainable innovation projects in Greece and Cyprus. The presentation was followed by private meetings with stakeholders active in the agricultural sector in order to present to them, in detail, the latest technological solutions on smart farming and traceability.
The 9th Congress was organized in the context of the Information Measure CAP4Clima, implemented by GAIA EPICHEIREIN and supported by the Directorate General for Agriculture and Rural Development of the European Commission
You can find photos from the 9th Panhellenic Congress for the Development of Greek Agriculture, HERE
You can find the presentations of the speakers, HERE
You can visit the Congress web page for more information.