Three consecutive cases of fake feta that Greek companies promoted abroad affect the first exported agricultural product of our country. Within the six months of February – July, violations of the identity of the emblematic PDO cheese detected by the Authorities of Germany and Sweden threaten the credibility of Greek production.
In the first case, of the white cheese that was produced and distributed in Germany as “Feta PDO” dairy industry of Thessaly, the Secondary Committee of Irregularities and Violations of the Ministry of Rural Development and Food in June imposed a fine of 260,000 euros.
The case concerned the production and export of a cheese product labeled “Feta”, in which cow’s milk was used instead of goat’s and sheep’s, as well as the distribution of a product marked “FETA POP” by the same company, while it was in a temporary status revocation of certification.
For the second company, also from Thessaly, which exported adulterated cheese to Sweden (it concerns two cases), the “bell” tolled last Tuesday to the tune of 165,000 euros. The 150,000 euros were imposed for the non-observance of the prescribed 48 hours from milking to cheese-making, as well as the sale of 87.7 tons of immature feta product, as it resulted from the production-sales balance. Another 15,000 euros were imposed on the same company for three previous cases pending from 2010, 2011 and 2012 respectively, which are included in the volume of referral cases that… stagnated in the committee drawers for a decade.
It is noteworthy that the two Irregularities and Infringements Committees that operate have the possibility of imposing a fine of up to 300,000 euros. However, according to officials of the Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure, before 2020, the last time the primary committee met was in November 2015 for a case involving irregularities with the Kalamata olive tree and had imposed fines of 1,000 to 7,500 euros.
Regarding the recent violations, the blow for the Greek “flagship” product is great because Germany and Sweden are at the top of the list of countries in which feta exports have been increasing in recent years. More generally, Eurostat data, compiled by the Research Institute for Export Research and Studies (IEES) of the Exporters Association of Northern Greece (SEVE), reveal that feta exports show a significant upward trend in both the last five years and the last five years. 2021.
According to IES analysts, the main destinations of feta, with a significant increase, are Germany (13.7% in the period 2019-2020), France (33% in the period 2019-2020 and 81.8% in the five months 2021), the USA (53.9% increase in the first five months 2021), Denmark, Poland, Italy, Sweden and so on.
In fact, the numbers show why feta is one of the pillars of the rural areas and a pillar of Greek livestock. Feta exports account for 6.2% of all agricultural exports and 1.4% of total Greek exports (2020 data).
Market participants, actors of the livestock world, such as the Hellenic Livestock Association and the Panhellenic Federation of Geotechnical Civil Servants express their concern, as the violations endanger the exports of the most emblematic Greek agricultural product. France and Denmark are submitting requests to the EU to make feta from cow’s milk.
“Preemptive checks abroad”
The Deputy Minister of Rural Development and Food, Mrs. Fotini Arabatzi, speaking to “Vima”, emphasized that the era of impunity in the falsification of emblematic Greek products has passed irrevocably. The new regularity in the protection of Greek production (with a focus on PDO-PGI products) means “systematic controls throughout the range of production and distribution and ultimately political will to enforce the law and impose sanctions.”
The deputy minister points out that in the 4.5 years of the previous government, a single fine of 10,000 euros had been imposed for feta fraud, while the current one has already imposed sanctions of 260,000 euros on a company. In addition, the findings of the Commission, which is finally meeting, are expected for feta cases with “heavy indictments”.