Greece: “Low Prices and Marketing Challenges Set the Cherry Industry”

Greece: “Low Prices and Marketing Challenges Set the Cherry Industry”

Aristedis Anthopoulos is a 39-year-old Greek professional cherry grower with a degree in Oenology. Coming from a family involved in cherry production since 1950, he entered the business professionally in 2011. Smartcherry brings his experience in this interview.

“When I started, I didn’t have a lot of knowledge. Before planting my first trees, I spent a year researching and gathering information. This led me to create my YouTube channel, Sweetcherrygrower, where I upload simple videos providing information about cherry growing techniques, pruning, and cherry varieties. This way, anyone can have an easier head start. I answer all the questions anyone might have,” introduced Anthopoulos.

Where are you located? How many hectares and varieties do you currently have?

My farm is located in northern Greece, in the heart of Macedonia, just 5 minutes from the birthplace of Alexander the Great. I started with 50 trees and two varieties, and today I have 2,200 open vase type trees and 18 varieties. These figures are above average for Greece, but cherry growers are expanding every year.

What are some of the main challenges faced by cherry growers in the Greek industry?

The biggest challenge is exportation. Greece is a small country, and exporting cherries is quite difficult.

How does the Greek cherry industry compare to other cherry-growing regions in terms of production volume and market competitiveness?

Greece is highly competitive because growers sell at lower prices. The production can reach up to 70,000 tons, which is about 3% of the world cherry production.

Are there any specific varieties of cherries that are predominant in the Greek industry?

The most popular varieties are Early Bigi, Grace Star, Lapins, Ferrovia, and Giant Red. However, new varieties are planted every year, such as Sweet Ariana, Sweet Gabriel, Sweet Valina, Nimba, Sabrina, Prime Giant, and more.

What are the typical harvesting and postharvest practices employed by Greek cherry growers to ensure high-quality fruit?

Greek growers are well-educated and adhere to the laws. They make sure to use only legal products during the cherry season. They start with fertilizers, followed by sprays of fungicides, pesticides, calcium, and micronutrients to ensure good quality fruit. If the trees have heavy loads, cherry thinning is done, and postharvest pruning is carried out to allow cherries to grow larger.

Are there any unique pest or disease pressures that Greek cherry growers have to contend with? How are these managed?

Fortunately, we do not have any specific pests, but I believe the biggest threat is the Drosophila Suzukii fly. This pest could potentially bring catastrophe to the growers. If better pesticides cannot be developed, we may see a decline in cherry production.

How does climate change or weather variability affect cherry production?

I cannot comment on the specific impact of climate change because every year is different. Therefore, we cannot apply specific strategies. However, when hailstorms occur, airplanes are used to spray the clouds and prevent hail from forming.

How do Greek cherry growers approach marketing and distribution channels for their produce? Are there any specific domestic or international markets they primarily target?

Greek growers are not directly involved in marketing; this is handled by dealers. However, dealers must do a better job in the future, or else cherry production will be at risk. Growers primarily export cherries to the European Union, Egypt, and many Arab countries.

Are there any ongoing research and development efforts in the Greek cherry industry to improve cultivation techniques, disease resistance, or fruit quality?

We are fortunate to have the pomology institute in our area, and they do great work. They conduct experiments with varieties and organize lectures to educate more growers.

Are Greek cherry growers following or looking at the development of the Chilean cherry industry?

Not enough, from what I know. We should pay more attention to the development of the Chilean cherry production and marketing, as they are the world’s leading cherry exporter.

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