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'We are trying to find alternative markets but it is not easy'

Driving into the wide concrete yard at Velventos Co-op is like driving into any co-op yard in Ireland - except for the sunshine.

Dust covered cars and rickety jeeps wheel in for supplies and farmers stop to chat pushing their caps back on their heads and leaning back against their vehicles with their arms folded.

Some make their way to the functional canteen for a sweet Greek coffee or even a cold beer.

The co-op, located in the Kozani area of Greek Macedonia, has 400 farmer members supplying peaches, nectarines, pears and some apples.

Manager Athanasios Kotzakolios explains that the co-op takes in 10,000 tons of peaches from its growers along with around 3,000 tons of other fruits.

The fruit farms are family owned and, similar to Irish family farms, are small and dispersed.

"The fruit is packed on the farm, the only human hand to touch it is the farmer," explains Athanasios.


The emphasis at Velventos is on quality and exports. The co-op agronomists agree the terms of husbandry with the farmer every year.

Fertiliser and pesticide are bought by the co-op and sold to the farmers at cost, while the level of their use is governed by a strict quality control agreement with the co-op.

The fruit is sold to the domestic market and exported to Eastern European markets and to Russia.

The embargo on exports to Russia has hit the co-op hard forcing a 10pc price drop last year.

"We are trying to find alternative markets in Scandinavia and the Middle East but it's not easy," says Athanasios.

The co-op has tried to expand its share of the domestic market and last year domestic sales surpassed exports.

Indo Farming