The “Mastic Gastronomy Institute” is turning on its engines, with the aim of introducing to foreign visitors, but also to remind the Greeks, the tear of the bush, the fragrant resin that in our memory of taste has been associated with special moments. The “Mastiha Experience Project”, which was planned a year ago, but due to the pandemic wnet into “sleep mode”, is expected to come to life in the coming months.
“The Institute, a special purpose company of “Mediterra”, is planned to function as an “extroversion tool” for Greek mastic. We systematize and organize the “Mastiha Experience” in Chios. It is an semantic experience, which is absent today from the island, in which we will involve restaurants, cafes, hotels, and even the households of Chios, organizing special events, tastings, etc. “, Mr. Giannis Mandalas the CEO of “Mediterra” stated to ot.gr.
However, even without the “Mastiha Experience” the traditional Chios mastic as well as the dozens of new commercial and pharmaceutical products, which are produced in the unit that operates on the island and are distributed in 40 countries around the world, did just fine, despite the pandemic and did not “bend” from the financial impact of COVID-19. According to Mr. Mandala, 2020 was a difficult year, but “we managed to catch the revised targets due to the pandemic, ie we kept the reduction to 22%, made a profit and continued investing, planning and expanding the production facilities of” Mediterra ”». In fact, as he points out, a new MastihaShop is ready at Athens airport, but due to the conditions it has not opened yet.
It is noteworthy that in the shareholding structure of “Mediterra” the Association of Mastic Producers of Chios has 53.23% has , the Zaitech Fund has 28.18% , the cosmetics company Korres has 5.13% , Platona Enterprises has 4.69% , while the remaining percentage is “shared” by Chian families who are active in shipping, in order to support the traditional activity of the island. Other subsidiaries of the Chios Mastic Producers Association are Mastiha Damla Sakiz SA, which operates on the Turkish market, the Mastic Research Center for the development of mastic-based medicinal products, and the Mastiha Cooking School.
The Association of Mastic Producers of Chios is a model of agricultural cooperative. From 1938, when it was founded until today, it operates as a compulsory cooperative _ in other words, each producer is obliged to deliver all his production and the Union is responsible for processing and marketing. The difference with other cooperative structures is that over the years it evolved and adapted to the consumer needs of each era, while maintaining the products loved by generations and generations of Greeks, such as ELMA, Greek mastic chewing gum in the green and yellow paper boxes that were in the foreground. for decades, in all the kiosks of the country, from 1959 onwards.
Today, despite adverse conditions, worldwide, due to SARS-CoV-2, the demand for mastic is increased and pushes to increase production, which in 2020 exceeded 183 tons, reaching a record of thirty years. In fact, according to what he pointed out to ot.gr, the president of the Chios Mastic Producers Association, Mr. George Toumpos, the harvest of 2021, which has been completed, reached 216 tons, with the average selling price per kilo moving to 83 euro. Thus, while in 2018 the balance sheet closed at 14.8 million euros, in 2019 the turnover reached 17.9 million euros and in 2020 20 million euros, an amount that is expected to be exceeded in 2021. According to Mr. Toumbos, for 2020 there is an increase in turnover close to 18% and in profits around 15%.
There is, however, a problem, which according to the president of the Union lies in the fact that the demand is greater than the production and the gap is constantly widening. That is why the Union is trying, through incentives, to attract young farmers to mastic cultivation. Already, in the last year, 48 young people entered the production of mastic. But they still need more land to meet demand. The Union currently has 20 primary cooperatives of the 24 Mastic villages of South Chios and about 4,600 natural members.
However, Mediterra has set as its strategic priority the utilization of the medicinal use of mastic, along with the strengthening of scientific research, and the goal of launching new products. In recent years, the uses of mastic are expanding, as studies have shown its antimicrobial action, protection for the digestive system, its action against atherosclerosis, its benefits for oral hygiene and its healing properties. Since 2015 it has been recognized as a traditional medicine by the European Medicines Agency for stomach disorders and skin inflammations and is available as a special food with the approval of the National Pharmaceutical Organization.
“Chios mastic”, as a cultural asset is included in UNESCO’s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of, while both the Union and “Mediterra” have won dozens of awards and distinctions, at all levels, e.g. as a model cooperative, with a very successful export strategy, for its business activity, superior taste award for ELMA chewing gum, etc.