Greece Agriculture and Fishing Overview

Greece Facts

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Capital: Athens
Official language: Greek
Currency: Euro
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Agriculture and fishing

Greek agriculture accounts for only a few percent of the gross domestic product. But it still employs close to one-seventh of the workforce and is of great importance to the economy. Large parts of the country are mountainous and unsuitable for cultivation. About a quarter of the land area is cultivated.

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Greece is self-sufficient on all important agricultural products except for meat, dairy and animal feed. The most important crops are cereals (wheat, oats and maize), cotton, fruits and vegetables (mainly peaches, olives and tomatoes), tobacco, grapes and sugar beets.

Productivity in the sector is only half of the EU average. Greek agriculture has received large EU grants to increase productivity, but at the same time the EU has demanded modernization, which has caused many farmers to protest against agricultural policy. For Greece defense and foreign policy, please check relationshipsplus.

The largest agricultural areas are in Macedonia and Thessaly. Summers are too hot and dry for efficient farming and irrigation is therefore relatively common. Water scarcity is a serious problem.

The farms are small through the generations’ succession: most are less than four hectares. These farms often use old-fashioned cultivation methods and tools.

Almost half of the land area is grassy and bushy and suitable for livestock management. This is usually done in a traditional way with free roaming sheep and goats guarded by herdsmen.

The Greeks fish both along the coasts and around the islands. Greek fishing vessels are also found in the Atlantic. Depletion and soiling of the eastern Mediterranean makes it increasingly difficult to get good fish catches. Many fishermen have used EU grants to take old and small fishing boats out of use. Instead, fish farming along the coasts has increased. Most of the catch is consumed within the country.

About a fifth of Greece is wooded. The forest industry is insignificant. An important forest product, however, is the resin of the Aleppo figure, which is used in the court wine.


Agriculture’s share of GDP

3.7 percent (2018)

Percentage of land used for agriculture

47.6 percent (2016)



Turkish criticism of Greek asylum decision

December 30

Greek authorities grant political asylum to a helicopter pilot who brought seven Turkish military to Greece after the Turkish coup attempt in July 2016. The issue has created tension for Turkey, which has requested the pilot and the seven soldiers to be extradited to Turkey. However, the Greek authorities believe that the pilot’s human rights would be in danger of extradition. A Greek judge says there is no evidence that the man was involved in the coup attempt. Prime Minister Tsipras says that the asylum decision should be set aside and that the government should appeal the case to the Court of Appeal.

The state budget is adopted

December 19

Parliament adopts the 2018 state budget, which is the last of the economic rescue operation undertaken by the EU and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) together with Greece. Subsequently, the Greek economy will be monitored by the lenders. The EU says that the Greek economy should be monitored until 75% of the Union’s loans are paid off. In the 2018 budget, several high taxes are maintained and new cost cuts are made.

Strikes in protest against new budgetary tightening

December 14

A number of trade unions are announcing a general strike for 24 hours in protest of the government’s plans for new cuts in the state budget and continued high taxes. About 16,000 people go on strike in Athens and around 4,500 strike in Thessaloniki. The strike causes disruptions to both transport systems and public service in, for example, schools and hospitals. The continued tight fiscal policy is due to a substantial reduction in the budget deficit in 2018 in accordance with the agreement with the EU and International Monetary Fund (IMF) lenders (see also Financial overview).

Refugee agreement between Greece and Turkey

December 11

Greece and Turkey conclude an agreement to allow refugees on the Greek mainland to be transported back to Turkey. The previous EU-Turkey agreement of 2016 states that only paperless refugees located in the Aegean Islands should be allowed to be returned to Turkey. The change then becomes the need to relocate thousands of refugees from the overcrowded camps on the islands to buildings with heat on the mainland becoming more and more acute as winter approaches. EU countries have previously been hesitant to move the refugees to the mainland, fearing that they would try to move further north. Greece will relocate 8,000 of the approximately 15,000 refugees on the islands of Lesbos, Kios, Samos, Kos and Leros to the mainland where better accommodation can be offered.


The government facilitates the country’s poorest

November 14

In a televised speech, Prime Minister Tsipras announces that the government is investing a total of € 1.4 billion to help the most vulnerable households. The Greek state has recently strengthened its economy after experiencing a severe crisis with a series of tough austerity programs and crisis loans since 2010. EUR 720 million will be paid in the form of cash grants to households with a total annual income of less than EUR 18,000, which affects around 3.4 million Greeks. EUR 315 million will be invested to compensate pensioners for increased health care costs and EUR 360 million will go to the indebted state electricity company Dei to provide cheaper electricity to poor consumers.


The refugee stream is increasing again

October 19

According to the UNHCR UNHCR, 5,000 migrants from Turkey arrived in Greek islands in September, marking a sharp increase compared to earlier in the year, when a total of 13,320 arrived between January and August 20. Migrant flows across the Aegean Sea decreased significantly following the EU’s agreement with Turkey in March 2016. That it is now increasing again may coincide with increasingly poor relations between the EU and Turkey. The conditions in the camps on the islands of Samos, Lesbos, Kos, Chios and Leros are described as very bad. The refugees who now come to Greece risk getting trapped in poorly equipped camps, as it is in principle impossible to continue up through Europe.


Greece out of shame

September 25

The EU removes Greece from the list of member countries whose budget deficits exceed 3% of GDP. At most, the Greek deficit was more than 15 percent in 2009, while for 2017 it is expected to end at 1.2 percent. Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem says that Greece must now complete the necessary economic reforms before the end of the year in order to end the Union’s rescue efforts.


Public sector reform package

August 30th

The government is presenting a plan to reform and streamline the public sector over the next three years. The intention is to eliminate the problems that have contributed to the country’s deep economic crisis. According to the plan, the training of public employment is to be improved, the staffing of government agencies and companies better match the needs of the sector, digital skills are prioritized in employment and the regulations are simplified.


Two billion for refugee aid

July 27

The European Commission decides to give Greece € 209 million, equivalent to around SEK 2 billion, to help refugees trapped in substandard camps to rent apartments and pay for their costs.

Greece back in the financial market

July 26

The Greek central bank sells government bonds for three billion euros at a five-year interest rate of 4.625 percent. The last Greek government auctioned bonds was in 2014, when the interest rate was 4.95 percent. Prime Minister Tsipras says this shows that the Greek economy is on the way out of the protracted deep crisis and hopes that the ECB will be persuaded to pump fresh capital into the country.

Legal criticism against the government

July 24

On the anniversary of the fall of the military regime in 1974, President Pavlopoulos appears to be resigning to the government for a series of legal action. In a speech to celebrate the restoration of democracy, the president recalls that the courts must work without influence and that the legislators must respect their independence. The post comes after a heated debate over the public criticism of leading government politicians against the verdict. The judges’ and prosecutors’ interest organization has compared the politicians’ attempts to influence the judiciary with the authoritarian interventions against the judiciary in Turkey and Poland.

IMF grants loan “in principle”

July 20

The IMF approves a one-year loan of $ 1.8 billion to Greece, but will not pay any money until the euro zone agrees on a debt amortization plan. IMF chief Lagarde says Greece cannot meet its commitments to lenders until the country’s European partners write down its repayment requirements. She adds that Greece and the euro area countries must agree on a debt cancellation plan “soon”.


New disbursement of emergency loans

June 15

Greece is rescued from a new crisis when, after a lengthy tug of war, the eurozone countries finally agree to make a new payment from Greece’s third rescue package. The disbursement comprises 8.5 billion. Thus, the Athens government will be able to make the next loan payment, which will take place in July. After implementing a number of tough reforms, the Greek government had also hoped to get debt relief, but Germany in particular opposes it. Instead, Greece is now promised that the loans will be renegotiated in 2018 and that the level of payments should be adjusted to growth. Thus, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) contributes some money. So far, the IMF has not participated in the third rescue package as Greece’s debt level was considered unsustainable.

New talks with Macedonia on the name issue

June 14

Negotiations between Greece and Macedonia on the name Macedonia resume. Greece opposes the neighboring country calling itself Macedonia, which is also the name of a province in northern Greece. The dispute has been going on since 1991 when Macedonia became an independent country. As long as the dispute is not resolved, Greece is blocking Macedonia’s ability to join NATO and the EU. The government that took office in Macedonia at the beginning of June is keen to resolve the conflict and now claims to be ready to compromise on the name issue.


New crisis package assumed

May 18

Parliament adopts a new austerity package that reduces the state’s pension costs by EUR 4.9 billion and increases the proportion of residents who have to pay state tax. The package was adopted with 153 votes against 128. The government hopes to be able to get out 7 billion euros after the eurozone finance minister’s meeting on May 22.

Protests against cuts

May 17

Thousands of Greeks are primarily demonstrating Athens and Thessaloniki against new reductions in pensions and a lower threshold for tax-exempt income. The demonstrations coincide with a 24-hour strike that takes place the day before Parliament is to vote on the proposals, which are a prerequisite for continued disbursement of EU and IMF financial support.

Turkish soldiers are not extradited

May 3

A court for the second time blocked a request from Turkey to have soldiers fleeing to Greece with a helicopter in connection with the coup attempt in July 2017. The court order applies to three of the eight soldiers. An extradition request for three others has already been rejected, while two cases have not been decided.


Airport sales completed

April 12

The Greek state ends work on selling 14 regional airports to the German consortium Fraport for EUR 1.2 billion. According to the agreement, the consortium will operate and develop the airports for 40 years and pay € 22.9 million in rent each year. Airport privatization was one of the conditions for the € 86 billion EU emergency package approved in July 2015. Among the airports affected are those in Thessaloniki and the tourist islands of Mykonos, Santorini and Corfu. The settlement with the EU also includes the privatization of ports and other government assets.

Concessions to the lenders

April 7

Greece agrees to changes in pensions and taxes that will provide savings of 2 per cent of GDP from 2020, says Eurozone President Jeroen Dijsselbloem. A group of EU economic experts will be sent to Athens shortly to fine-tune the details of the settlement, which will allow loan payments to continue.


Continued economic downturn

6 March

Revised figures for the Greek economy show a fall of 0.05 percent in 2016. It was the eighth consecutive year that Greece’s GDP shrank. The decline was particularly strong in the last quarter, with 1.2 percent compared with the third quarter and 1.1 percent compared with the same period in 2015.


New conversations about the debt crisis

February 20th

The Greek government agrees to discuss new economic reforms in order to receive continued support from the EU and the IMF. For months, the country’s contacts with lenders have been deadlocked on budgetary targets and debt write-offs. The IMF calls for concrete measures to be included in the € 86 billion aid package promised by Greece in 2015. Tsakaloto’s Finance Minister has agreed to a number of austerity measures that will take effect immediately if Greece does not meet its budgetary targets. This applies, among other things, to a review of the tax and pension systems and the rules of the labor market. At the same time, a Greek government spokesman says that the new reforms should not mean more austerity for the Greek people.

Greece Agriculture and Fishing