Report Highlights:

Greece's certified planting seeds market shows good potential for future development. The current planting seed market value in MY 2014/15 is $180 million, with vegetable seeds and grains holding 73.9 percent of the market. Greece is a net importer of planting seeds. In the last five years the average planting seed imports value amounted to $68 million. While much of the planting material is sourced from European Union countries, other countries such as Israel, Turkey, China, and the United States also are suppliers.

General Information:

Small farms and low capital investment characterize Greek agriculture. Greece's utilized agricultural area is close to 5 million hectares, of which 57 percent is in the plains and 43 percent is in mountainous or semi-mountainous areas. An estimated 65 percent of the land under cultivation is used for arable crops, while 25 percent is used for tree plantations, and the remaining 10 percent for pastures and vineyards. The number of individual agricultural holdings is estimated at about 710,000. Thus, the average area per holding is slightly less than 6.8 hectares.

Greek domestic production of seed (farm seed, vegetable seed, and lawn seed) is limited when compared to imported seed, based on value and volume. Private companies provide most domestic seed production, leaving the rest of production to government organizations and institutions. In Greece, there are approximately 65 grain seed producing companies; 15 for vegetable seeds; 15 for fiber; and 40 for forage and legumes seeds. KESPY is the Central Cooperative Union of seeds offering seeds at economical prices, but most Greek farmers either use their own seed or if they are going to purchase seeds, they do so from private companies who can offer the latest performance traits.

According to the Greek Ministry of Rural Development and Food the area dedicated to planting seeds reached approximately 22,000 hectares (ha) in 2014, with a total output of 44,000 tons (MT) of certified seed. The Greek National Register of Agricultural Plant Varieties includes 548 field crop and 297 vegetable varieties. All hybrids in Greece are imported - none are produced locally.

Seed Production in Greece, in 2014

Crop

Area (ha)

Certified Seed Production (MT)

Durum wheat

8,712

28,432

Vicia sativa

5,675

1,360

Cotton

2,652

5,138

Barley

2,353

4,483

Alfalfa

852

70

Soft wheat

746

2,220

Peas

301

363

Potatoes

237

789

Triticale

166

503

Oats

114

169

Vicia faba

106

85

Chick peas

67

83

Lentils

46

44

Corn

42

71

Sugar Beets

27

4

Soya

6

12

A study from the Pan-Hellenic Confederation of Agricultural Cooperative Unions (PASEGES) shows that in 2014, imported seeds had a 35 percent market share valued at $106.2 million, down 16.8 percent compared to 2013. Greek seed sales in MY 2014/15 reached $180 million, with vegetable seeds accounting for 37.3 percent of the market (mostly tomato, potato, onion, and cucumbers), followed by grains other than corn (durum wheat; soft wheat; barley; oats; and triticale but excluding corn) with a 21.5 percent market share, and corn with 13.8 percent of the market. Greece remains the leading EU cotton producer, but cotton seed accounted for only 10.9 percent of the market in MY 2014/15 (slightly less than $20 million), mainly due to a shift in production to durum wheat as a result in a shift in support payments.

Crops

MY 2013/14 Sales (million dollars)

Market share (percent)

Vegetables (incl. potato)

67.3

37.3

Grains (excl. corn)

38.7

21.5

Corn

24.9

13.8

Forage seeds

20.1

11.2

Cotton

19.6

10.9

Sunflower

3.0

1.6

Rice

2.3

1.3

Sugar beet

1.9

1.1

Grass seeds

1.6

0.9

Rapeseed

0.6

0.4

Soya

0.3

0.2

In MY 2013/14, total vegetable seed sales in Greece were valued at $67.3 million, with tomato and potato seeds accounting for the lion's share of the market in this category. Certified tomato seeds are imported mostly from the Netherlands, France, Italy, and Israel.

Grains

In MY 2013/14, total grain seed sales in Greece were valued at over $63 million, with corn accounting for $24.9 million of the total. Certified corn seed production is very low (only 71 MT) and imports are necessary to meet demand. Annual domestic production of durum wheat seed is estimated to be over 28,000 MT, while barley production is approximately 4,500 MT and soft wheat seed production is approximately 2,500 MT.

Trade

Greece is a net importer of planting seeds. Over the last five years, Greece's planting seed imports have averaged $68 million in value terms. Most of Greece's imports are sourced from European Union countries, with the leading suppliers being Italy, the Netherlands, and France (almost 72 percent of the total in value terms). Hybrid corn and vegetable seeds are the most popular imports.

Israel, Turkey, China, and the United States are the biggest planting seed suppliers among non EU countries. Greek imports from the United States reached $1.3 million in MY 2013/14. The United States supplies mostly tomato, corn, alfalfa, and grass seeds. Within the vegetable category, tomato and squash seeds are the top sellers.

Greece employs the same tariffs and border measures as other EU member states. Tariffs apply to imports from third countries versus seeds from other EU Member States. Tariffs are based on the Harmonized System, with duties levied on imports from non-European Union (EU) on an ad valorem cost, insurance and freight (CIF) basis. The import duty for most products is 5-7%.

Import sources of planting seeds – Greece, $(1000)

2012/13

2013/14

2014/15

Market Year Begin

July

July

July

World

72,730

68,518

63,303

Italy

24,601

25,107

19,303

Netherlands

14,960

14,993

15,369

France

15,564

10,955

10,877

Bulgaria

3,577

3,203

3,212

Romania

1,058

516

2,266

Israel

1,632

1,900

1,816

Turkey

1,614

2,443

1,776

China

1,798

1,349

1,365

Spain

1,721

897

1,295

Germany

1,930

1,377

1,280

Cyprus

424

138

870

United States

721

1,338

697

Hungary

1,128

1,105

694

United Kingdom

552

667

481

Import of planting seeds by crop category – Greece, $(1000)

Market Year Begin: July

HS code

2012/13

2013/14

2014/15

World

72,730

68,518

63,303

Corn Seed, Certified, Excluding Sweet Corn

100510

32,891

27,460

25,480

Vegetable Seeds For Sowing

120991

23,303

23,130

23,413

Seeds, Fruit And Spores Used For Sowing

120999

6,844

8,307

7,248

Alfalfa Seed For Sowing

120921

3,678

4,217

3,268

Seeds Of Forage Plants For Sowing

120929

2,050

1,523

1,350

Seeds Herbaceous Plants (Flowers, For Sowing)

120930

768

877

630

Rye Grass Seed For Sowing

120925

663

488

608

Clover (Trifolium spp.) Seed For Sowing

120922

1,619

1,597

562

Fescue Seed For Sowing

120923

633

675

459

Sugar Beet Seed Of A Kind Used For Sowing

120910

180

201

244

Kentucky Blue Grass (Poa pratensis L.) Sowing Seed

120924

97

37

35

Policy Considerations

Common Agricultural Policy on seeds

OPEKEPE, the Greek Payment Authority for EU Common Agricultural Policy aid schemes provide financial support to agricultural producers from the state budget as de minimis aid. In the latest EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) for 2014-2020, the use of certified seed remains a required condition for European farmers to receive subsidies as "coupled" payments. "Coupled" payments are payments that are linked to a specific product. This decision has increased the use of certified seed in Greece; the Ministry of Rural Development and Food publishes every year the minimum required certified seed to be used. For 2014, durum wheat minimum certified seed is set at 120 kg per hectare and will increase to 160 kg per hectare for the period 2015-2020. For cotton hybrids, the minimum certified seed is set at 130 kg per hectare, and for cottonseed at 160 kg per hectare.

UPOV and Intellectual Property Rights

The European Union signed the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants on July 29, 2005 and Greece participates as an observer.

Genetically Engineered Seed

The general position towards GE (Genetically Engineered) crops in Greece remains unfavorable. Greece does not have a coexistence policy and maintains a de facto ban on both the cultivation and importation of GE products. In Greece, there are no GE plants or crops under development. Greece does not commercially cultivate any GE crops, even for GE seed production. Greece has maintained a de facto ban on GE products since April 2005, when it implemented a "safeguard clause" prohibiting the field release of MON 810, a GE corn developed by Monsanto and approved by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). In July 2008, EFSA determined that Greece's ban lacked a scientific basis. In November 2011, Greece extended the ban for another two years and expanded the measure to include both importation and cultivation. EFSA again rejected this argument in September 2012. Greece still enforces the cultivation ban despite the EU Court of Justice stating that it has no grounds for relying on the safeguard clause.

In March 2015, Directive (EU) 2015/412 allowed Member States (MS) to restrict or ban the cultivation of genetically engineered (GE) plants in their territory. In August 2015, Greece informed the Commission that it intended to officially opt-out of growing MON 810 corn anywhere in its territory. A similar European Commission proposal to enable Member States to restrict or prohibit the sale and use of EU-approved GE food or feed was rejected by the European Parliament in October 2015, as Member States were concerned the law might prove unworkable or would lead to the reintroduction of border checks between pro-GE and anti-GE countries. However, in December 2015, the Environment Committee passed a resolution calling on the Commission to table a new proposal and withhold any new approvals until the process has been revised.

New Plant Breeding Techniques

New breeding techniques (NBT) are the applications of biotechnology and molecular biology that have emerged during the last 20 years. There are no private companies or public institutions conducting research on NBTs in Greece. Till now, no permits have been granted for commercial release of GE plants. Field trials or commercial cultivation of GE plants is prohibited.

Organic Seed

The harmonized EU organic seed regulations that apply in Greece are EC 1452/2003, EC 834/2007, and EC 889/2008, adding or amending to the National Law 1564/1985. Almost all the certified organic seed in Greece is imported. Limited organic plant breeding research is done by the agricultural universities and the National Agricultural Research Foundation.

Advantages

Challenges

Low share of certified seed used in

Price competition from uncertified seed (uncertified

planting seed in Greece means there is great opportunity for development

seed is much cheaper than certified seed)

Production benefits of using high quality seed can be clearly demonstrated

Greece's yields remain very modest and other factors may drive decisions

Greek authorities are becoming increasingly more familiar with modern seed production standards

Greece needs to continue its Registry updates to keep apace of the EU's decisions on seed standards

There is a generally supportive institutional and organizational environment

Illegal trade in seeds

Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) requires the use of certified seed to receive "coupled" payments

Farmers adopt only the minimum certified seed requirements to receive subsidies while containing production costs and the supports only cover a few crops

Greece is part of the EU and, in theory, biotech approvals should be harmonized across the single market

The Greek government has a long standing ban on genetically engineered products both for cultivation and use and has implemented border controls which include random testing

There is a Seed Technology Center in the Agricultural University of Athens to support planting seed technology

The Greek government has cut research funds as part of the latest government austerity measures

Greece needs planting seed imports to sustain its food & feed processing industry

5-7% tariffs apply to imports from third countries versus seeds from other EU Member States