Developing Greek research and technology (RTD) in agriculture is the main priority of the strategic plan for the viability of agriculture and the development of the countryside, according to the conclusions of a study entitled 'Viable agriculture in a developed countryside: a ten-year plan for agricultural development in Greece'. The study was compiled for the Ministry of Agriculture by an independent team comprising seven university professors.
By analysing the different types of technological developments and the bodies responsible for them, and looking at the factors that affect the agricultural research sector at national and international level, the study concludes that, compared with many other EU Member States, Greece is lagging behind both in developing new technology with an agricultural application and in importing and properly exploiting technological advances being developed abroad.
According to the working document, there are two main reasons for Greece's relative under achievement in producing and distributing technical knowledge. Firstly, inadequate funding makes it impossible to set up and staff research institutions with specialised personnel or provide the necessary equipment and infrastructure.
Moreover, there are no efficient mechanisms to link agricultural research in Greece with production in order to ensure that research is designed for and adapted to the particular requirements of the Greek agricultural sector. This results in the development of systems and ideas that do not correspond to the immediate needs of Greek agriculture.
Research activity in the private sector is mostly directed towards technologies with direct application, determined on the basis of demand for certain services from the producers. The main aim of private operators is to maximize profits and, to this end, they often concentrate on importing technical applications from abroad and selling them in Greece through organised commercial networks. Consequently, their research efforts do not compensate for the shortcomings of the public sector in technological developments.
When importing technological developments from abroad, producers are highly dependent on foreign centres, given the oligopolistic nature of the market in agricultural technology. At the same time, exploitation of imported technology is restricted, because there is no effective way to rationalize priorities and check the suitability of technological innovations, so as to match or adapt to the requirements of agricultural practice in Greece.
It should be pointed out that intensifying production by using unsuitable technologies can increase production costs with no corresponding increase in productivity, creating additional problems as regards competitiveness.
With regard to processed input and large facilities for intensive farming units, the study states that Greek agriculture relies almost exclusively on imports, since domestic production is often restricted to the final stages of manufacturing before the products are sold to farmers. The situation is similar for the equipment used to check the health and safety of agricultural products and to observe quality requirements, but also for the up-to-date organisation and trading of agricultural products, where computer technology and modern forms of data processing are required.
According to the study's coordinator, Prof. N. Maraveyias, the working document aims to not only record the current state of affairs but also to lay down basic policy guidelines for the next ten years. Within this context, strategic planning has been recommended with an emphasis on strengthening domestic research facilities, creating and preserving reproductive material from Greek varieties of plants and animal species, and on educating and informing the farmers to make them aware of the need to become largely independent of foreign suppliers for basic requirements of agricultural production.
Apart from the technological aspects of agricultural development, the study conducted by the independent committee of academics looked at economic, social and legal issues in Greek agriculture as well as national, European and worldwide factors that play a key role in creating agricultural policy. In his introduction to the study, the Minister for Agriculture, Mr G. Drys, emphasized that the document will provide the basis for initiating broader EU dialogue with all our 'community partners' who are connected directly or indirectly with Greece's agriculture and countryside in order to produce the final document entitled 'National Strategy for Greek Agriculture and the Countryside'.
The study was compiled by Prof. N. Marabeyias (University of Athens), Prof. K. Apostolopoulos (Harokopeio University), Prof. K. Mattas (Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki), Prof. N. Baltas (Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki), Prof. A. Moόsides (Panteio University, Athens) Prof. K. Papageorgiou (University of Agronomy, Athens) and Prof. D. Psaltopoulos (University of Patras).