Focus has switched to niche and value-added products

Krokos in Greek Macedonia is a mountain village where the local co-op is leading the economic fightback
Krokos in Greek Macedonia is a mountain village where the local co-op is leading the economic fightback

Saffron is a medicinal herb and a spice used to enhance taste and lend colour to dishes. Harvested from the crocus, the stigma at the centre of the plant is extracted and dried to become saffron.

The production of saffron is a labour intensive and time-consuming task that's as old as the hills around the village of Krokos near Kozani in Greek Macedonia.

However, the evolution of saffron production is part of a pattern replicated in other sectors of the Greek agriculture such as cotton and olive oil. Where traditionally the emphasis has been on bulk export, now the focus is firmly on developing quality, value-added products.

The Co-operative of Saffron Producers of Kozani was established in 1971 and according to its director, Patsiouras Nikolaos, it has 1,080 members spread across 10 villages.

"The cultivation of saffron covers 1,000ha and employs around 5,000 people," he maintains.

The annual national production looks tiny, at just six to 12 tons depending on the weather. However, as Mr Nikolaos points out, it takes 150,000 plants to produce 1kg of saffron.

All is done by hand, the planting, harvesting separation and drying.

"Up to 15 years ago Greek saffron was unknown as it was sold in bulk to traders," Mr Nikolaus explains.

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"With EU help and with the help of the university we have increased our standards and we are exporting all over the world under 14 different labels."

Greek Red Peppers

Greek red peppers might seem like a niche of niche industries but Angelos Noumidas is an energetic and enthusiastic promoter of his farm family business near Lake Vegoritida Florina in northern Greece.

Pepper growing and production is a labour intensive operation but the Noumidas family is using the best in modern control and production practices to increase its profile and sales.

Nevertheless, Angelos Noumidas constantly refers to tradition as the bedrock of what they do.

"What we have is God-given, this extraordinary micro climate and the recipes given us by our grandparents," he explains.

The company produces a range of jams sauces and preserves based on traditional recipes from peppers they grow themselves from seeds saved by the family over the generations.

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