Past, Present and Future Report

November 2011

The Government of Canada has prepared this report based on primary and secondary sources of information. Readers should take note that the Government of Canada does not guarantee the accuracy of any of the information contained in this report, nor does it necessarily endorse the organizations listed herein. Readers should independently verify the accuracy and reliability of the information. This report is intended as a concise overview of the market for those interested in its potential and is not intended to provide in-depth analysis which may be required by the individual exporter. Although every effort has been made to ensure that the information is correct, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada assumes no responsibility for its accuracy, reliability, or for any decisions arising from the information contained herein.

Please address any comments or suggestions you have on this report to:

Table of Contents

Executive Summary

  • Agriculture and agri-food products dominate Canada-Greece bilateral trade. Top Canadian exports to Greece include: furskins, machinery, paper and vegetables.
  • Despite recent economic issues, Greece remains a mature and viable consumer market which values high quality, innovative products.
  • The International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts that Greece's GDP growth will turn positive in 2012 at 1% and reach 2.6% by 2015.
  • Greece imported US$10 billion in agri-food products in 2009. Greece's top five agri-food imports include: specialty cheese; beef; wheat; pork; and cigarettes.
  • Increasing health awareness is changing the Greek diet as a whole. Rising obesity rates and food safety scares are shifting consumer consumption towards healthier meal choices.
  • Export Development Canada (EDC) lists agriculture and seafood as number one on its Top Ten Potential Sectors in its Trade Opportunities Matrix.


Greece is a modern, developed country with a population of 10.7 million, largely affluent consumers. Much of the population of Greece is concentrated in a few major urban areas, with Athens hosting about one-third of the country's population. The country has a strong democratic government, as well as a developing economy. Greece has been a member of the European Union (EU) since 1981 and has benefited from increased trade amongst its EU members.

The country is situated on the southern end of the Balkan Peninsula. It borders Albania, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Bulgaria to the north, and Turkey to the east. Greece is ideally situated between Central and Eastern Europe and sees itself as a natural gateway to the Balkan countries. Greece also enjoys good commercial ties to central and eastern European markets, including the Black Sea region.

Canada-Greece Relations

Canada and Greece share excellent bilateral relations with few barriers to trade, reflected in the steady level of two-way trade between the two countries. Both Canada and Greece are members of the United Nations, the Human Security Network, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and NATO.

Canada-Greece Bilateral Trade (2010)
Greece Total Trade US$67.5 billion
Exports US$20.9 billion
Imports US$46.6 billion
Trade balance (US$25.7 billion)
Canada-Greece Trade $257.2 million
Exports $114.8 million
Imports $142.4 million
Trade balance ($27.6 million)
Canada-Greece Ag Trade $100.4 million
Exports $37.4 million
Imports $63.0 million
Trade balance ($25.6 million)
  • Agriculture and agri-food products dominate total Canada-Greece bilateral trade.
  • Top Canadian exports to Greece include: furskins; machinery; paper; and vegetables.
  • Top Greek exports to Canada include: preserved food or vegetables; fruit and nuts; aluminum; olive oil; clay; and wine.
  • Greece typically maintains a positive balance in bilateral trade.

Agricultural Trade

While Greece is a world renowned producer of agricultural products, the country is dependent on imports of many key products to meet its needs. The agricultural sector is basically self-sufficient in crop production, but it relies heavily on meat and dairy imports. Primary agricultural imports include cheese, beef, wheat, pork, and sugar. While opportunities exist for Canadian exporters, key EU import partners dominate the import market. Greece imported US$10 billion in agri-food products in 2009. Greece's top five imports include: specialty cheese; beef; wheat; pork; and cigarettes.

Fruit and vegetable production is more than adequate to meet domestic demand and constitutes 40% of total agricultural exports, while olive oil, tobacco, cotton and hard-grain wheat account for an additional 40% of agricultural exports. In recent years the level of agricultural imports has decreased. The heavy reliance on imported meats has prompted the government to seek ways to diversify the Greek agricultural sector to reduce dependency on foreign commodities and agricultural products. Recent improvements in Greek poultry farming have boosted domestic production and consumption.

Trade: Description of this image follows

Canada's Agri-Food Trade with Greece: Exports - 32.3(2000) 32.1(2002) 69.7(2004) 33.3(2006) 48.6(2008) 34.7(2010), Imports - 47.1(2000) 52.3(2002) 49.7(2004) 58.8(2006) 63.6(2008) 59.3 (2010)

Canada's Top 5 Agricultural Exports* to Greece (2010)
Raw mink (furskin) $15.1 million
Lentils $7.9 million
Beans, dried $5.1 million
Pet food (dog/cat) $1.5 million
Wheat or meslin flour $910,135
Canada's Top 5 Agricultural Imports from Greece (2010)
Olive oil, virgin $10.7 million
Olives, prep., presvd. $9.1 million
Olives provisionally presvd. $6.8 million
Cheese, nes $6.3 million
Veg/fruit/nuts prep, presvd $4.1 million
  • Canada’s agri-food exports to Greece totaled $37.4 million in 2010, up slightly over 2009 but still down almost $15 million from pre-recession totals.
  • Furskins have dominated exports for over 10 years. Pulses exports have become more important over the last ten years, and recent dips appear to be recession related. Hake and Canary seed are also significant exports for Canada, and all saw improvement in totals in 2001 over 2010.
  • Canada's agri-food imports from Greece totaled $63 million in 2010, down significantly over 2009's total of $73 million.
  • Traditional Greek food products dominated Canada's agri-food imports in 2010. Not surprisingly, olives and olive oil dominated imports. Consumer goods, such as canned peaches and feta cheese were also a significant import, as was grape wine and spirits.

Complete statistical summary available at Canadian Trade Data by Country on the Agri-Food Trade Service (ATS) website.

Exports: Description of this image follows

Canada's Top 5 Agri-Food Exports to Greece (HS6): HS 430110 ( Raw mink furskins) - 6.1(2000) 6.7(2002) 6.5(2004) 17.3(2006) 15.3(2008) 15.2(2010), HS 071340 (Lentils dried) - 5.6(2000) 5.3(2002) 5.8(2004) 6.1(2006) 10.2(2008) 7.9(2010), HS 071339 (Beans dried) - 2.5(2000) 5.7(2002) 4.4(2004) 4.8(2006) 8.4(2008) 5.1(2010), HS 230910 (Dog or cat food) - .19(2000) .45(2002) .52(2004) .50(2006) .96(2008) 1.5(2010), HS 110100 (Wheat) - .44(2000) .37(2002) .67(2004) .47(2006) .80(2008) .91(2010)


Prior to the 2008 global financial crisis and the subsequent economic downturn, the Greek economy had been growing steadily (roughly 4% annually between 2003 and 2007). Bolstered by involvement in the EU, a burst in consumer spending, and significant investment in infrastructure around the 2004 Olympic Games, the Greek economy had witnessed a relatively stable period with sustained growth. However, the global financial crisis hit Greece very hard and exposed some very serious issues that had plagued the economy for some time i.e. widespread tax evasion, ballooning public debt, corruption and transparency issues that affect day-to-day business.

Gross Domestic Product (2010)
  Greece Canada
GDP US$305.4 billion $1.6 trillion
Real GDP growth -3.0% (2011e) 3.1% (2010)
GDP/capita US$27,000 US$45,888
GDP/capita (PPP) US$27,000 US$39,400

Since 2009, the Greek economy has been in recession with GDP growth falling -2.0% in 2009, -4% in 2010 and an anticipated -3.0% in 2011. Prior to the recession Greece's GDP stood at US$348.7 billion, it has since fallen to an estimated US$310.4 billion in 2011. On the positive side, the 2011 figure is an increase over 2010's US$305.4 billion.

The impact of the financial crisis on the general population has been significant: state revenue is in decline; the budget deficit has been listed at 13%; and public debt stands above 100% of GDP. Inflation is currently at 3.3%. Unemployment has doubled from pre-recession levels to hit almost 16%, and some estimates suggest that a full 20% of the population lives below the poverty line.


  • The Greek labour force comprises roughly of 5 million people, and the unemployment rate is currently 16% (2011).
  • The agriculture sector employs a disproportionate 12% of the Greek labour force.
  • The service sector dominates the economy accounting for roughly 80% of total GDP. Industry represents 17% of GDP and agriculture represents roughly 4%.
  • The Greek economy has always been characterized by small, family-based and -managed enterprises or self-employment, with a large service sector supporting a small manufacturing base. Greece has very little heavy industry.
  • Tourism continues to be a very important sector in the economy, contributing roughly 15% of GDP.
  • Greece has one of the largest merchant marine fleets in the world in terms of capacity, but the once dominant ship building industry has all but gone.
  • Exports were valued at US$20.9 billion in 2010, while imports were valued at US$46.6 billion resulting in a negative trade balance of US$25 billion.
  • Greece's primary export commodities include: food and beverages; manufactured goods; petroleum products; chemicals; and textiles.
  • Greece's primary imports include: machinery; transport equipment; fuels; and chemicals.


  • Given the current climate and continuing uncertainties, economic forecasts for Greece should be considered short term at best. Economic contraction is expected to continue in 2011, but negative growth will slow.
  • The IMF has produced detailed forecasts for the Greek economy through 2015 with projections that total GDP will rise to US$320 billion by 2015. GDP growth will turn positive in 2012 at 1% and reach 2.6% by 2015.
  • Despite a return to growth, the IMF projects unemployment will remain above 14% through 2015.

Under heavy pressure, and out of sheer necessity, the Greek government has implemented a series of austerity measures, and EU partners have approved two bail-out packages. The government has developed a three-year Stability and Growth Program that will attempt to reduce the fiscal deficit to 3% by 2013. This plan is very aggressive and will require strict attention if it is to be successful. Additionally, the government faces long-term challenges to its largely unpopular reforms. The country's labour unions are very strong and vocal, and strikes are common. Fortunately, for the economy as a whole, large scale strikes to-date have had limited impact on the government's will to adopt reforms.

Greece's current economic situation has severely strained and tested the EU. The prospect of a Greek default on its euro-denominated debt has raised the question of whether a member country might leave the common currency, voluntarily or otherwise.

Despite these issues, the fact remains that Greece is a mature and viable consumer market and one which high quality, innovative Canadian products are viewed favourably. A dedicated Canadian exporter with the assistance of a local partner will find opportunities in Greece.

Consumer Market

Greece's 10.7 million consumers' needs are dynamic and evolving, with purchasing patterns ever-changing. In Greece, demographic and lifestyle similarities can be drawn nationwide. The Greek diet is fundamentally based on Mediterranean foods and ingredients. Greek eating habits emphasize a traditional diet comprised of Greek cheeses, such as feta; local desserts; olives; wine; traditional pasta products; goat; cod; oil; and salt-preserved products, all of which still represent a large part of consumer purchases. Greeks remain the largest olive oil consumers worldwide with an average 35 litres of olive oil consumed per person annually.

Meat is a staple of the Greek diet and constitutes a significant portion of the family food budget. Pulses and grains are also an important part of the Greek diet and their consumption has increased in recent years. These products are traditional imports and provide good opportunities for exporters.

In the past, Greek families largely cherished preparing home-cooked meals that would be enjoyed by the company of close family and relatives; however, eating habits outside the traditional realm are changing, thus creating a growing demand for more convenient foods and diverse eating opportunities. Eating and spending habits are shifting towards convenience meals and modest grocery shopping expenditures.

Many niche opportunities exist for Canadian exporters within the Greek market. Exporters are encouraged to seek out established importers with unique and originally labeled products, as these products have the most success in the consumer market. Goods such as maple syrup products, pet foods, fruit and vegetable juice, fruit and edible nuts, as well as organic products among others will have the most appeal to Greek importers and consumers.

Increasing health awareness is changing the Greek diet as a whole. Rising obesity rates and food safety scares are shifting consumer consumption towards healthier meal choices. Food trends show an increased demand for healthy alternatives and organic foods, as these products tie into the perception of better quality, taste and positive health impacts on the consumer. Convenience and frozen food as opposed to fresh goods will continuously be demanded as lifestyles become busier; likewise, their added shelf life is of benefit to food distributors. With the Greek organic farming industry being so small, potential for exporters to penetrate this market still exists.


Population Demographics* (2011e)
Population 10.7 million
Age (% of population) 0-14 years
Age (% of population) 15-64 years
Age (% of population) 65 years and over
Median Age 42 years
Population Growth 0.08%

*CIA World Factbook, IMF (2011e)

  • Greece's population is growing less than 1% annually.
  • The median age is 42 years and around 20% of the population is 65 years and over.
  • Greece's two largest cities account for almost 50% of the entire population. Key cities include the capital Athens (3.8 million) and the key port city of Thessaloniki (834,000).
  • Athens is the eighth most populated city in the EU.

General Consumer Trends

  • Young and affluent Greek consumers are generally more experimental than their older counterparts. These consumers are more willing to try new types of food products.
  • Greeks have a higher disposable income than consumers in neighbouring Balkan countries.
  • Consumers are looking for healthy, tasty, and nutritious products that have been safely grown and processed. A more recent trend has consumers looking for assurance that the production of their food has not caused significant environmental harm.
  • Working Greek consumers are turning towards easy-to-prepare foods, but are unwilling to sacrifice taste and quality for convenience.
  • Consumer awareness of a product's ingredients and production origin is increasing.
  • Greeks are more frequently replacing home cooked meals with snacks and foods that can be consumed on-the-go. It is not uncommon for one or two meals a day to be missed and replaced by snack-type foods.
  • There is a small but growing interest in consuming organic products.
  • A pre-recession rise in access to credit caused a significant increase in general consumer spending.


Given Greece's top agri-food imports (specialty cheese, beef, wheat, pork), Canadian exporters seem well positioned to take advantage of Canada's excellent reputation for quality. EDC currently lists agriculture and seafood as number one on its Top Ten Potential Sectors in its Trade Opportunities Matrix, while processed food and beverages ranking sixth on the Matrix.

The U.S. Commercial Service lists the following agricultural products as having the best prospects for potential exporters: seeds; tree nuts; wood products; and frozen seafood.


As a member of the EU, Greek trade is dominated by EU partners. Greece's principal export destinations are Germany 11%, Italy 11%, Cyprus 7%, Bulgaria 6%, U.S. 5%, United Kingdom 4%, and Turkey 4%. Greece's main import sources are Germany 13%, Italy 12%, China 7%, France 6%, Netherlands 6%, South Korea 5%, Belgium 4%, and Spain 4%.

Canadian exporters must identify a competitive price point for their product as the Greek food market is extremely price-competitive. Greeks tend to be very nationalistic when it comes to purchasing decisions, particularly with regard to food purchases. This is mainly a result of quality and safety concerns, but also to support national production, particularly in face of the domestic economic downturn. Apart from competition from domestic products, Canadian agriculture and agri-food exporters will face stiff competition from Greece's traditional EU trading partners, such as Italy, Germany, France, United Kingdom and the Netherlands.

Access Issues

As a member of the EU, Greece's tariffs and trade barriers fall in line with EU policy. External trade agreements are generally negotiated with Canada through the EU. Bilateral trade is based on the 1976 Agreement on Commercial and Economic Co-operation. Canadians wishing to export goods to Greece are encouraged to contact the Canadian Embassy in Athens for detailed information on Greek markets, as well as EU trade policies.

The Trade Division of the Canadian Embassy in Athens is an excellent source of information for Canadians wishing to do business with Greece importers. The Embassy provides six core services: market prospects; key contacts searches; visit information; local company information; face-to-face briefing; and trouble shooting, and treats all requests as confidential. For additional information, please visit the Embassy's website.

Canadian exporters are encouraged to register with the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service to gain easy access to Canada's embassies and posts abroad. Canadian exporters are also encouraged to use the services of EDC and DFAIT: both of which offer trade information, and financial and risk management services to Canadian exporters.

  • Canada and Greece are both members of the Canada-European Trade and Investment Enhancement Agreement (TIEA). This agreement is set between the member countries of the EU and Canada to allow import and export flows with few irritants.
  • Greece is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), EU, Economic and Monetary Union of the EU, OECD, OSCE and NATO: all restrictions governing these organizations/alliances apply to Greece in terms of imports and exports.
  • Import duties into EU countries are subject to the respective import tariff plus a Value Added Tax (VAT), which varies according to individual EU countries. Currently, the VAT for Greece is 9% on agricultural products.
  • Animal products coming into the EU must be from pre-approved establishments. These items include, but are not limited to seafood, meat, and dairy products.
  • Certain foodstuffs, colourings, animal products, plants, seeds, grains and alcohol are prohibited from entering EU countries. Contacting the Greece importer prior to shipment for confirmation that the product is acceptable for import is advisable.
  • Trade events play a crucial role in marketing products to Greek importers.

Business Travel Tips

  • Greece's currency is the Euro (EUR).
  • A Canadian passport that is valid for the duration of your stay is required.
  • Business visas are not required for a visit of less than 90 days. For stays longer than 90 days, travellers are expected to visit their local Greek Consulate to fill out appropriate paperwork in advance of travel.
  • Typical business week and hours run Monday to Friday, 9:00 to 18:00.
  • Formality is extremely important in Greece. Letters of introduction from an intermediary, prompt follow-ups, and attending pre-business functions may be necessary before a scheduled appointment takes place. Additionally, titles (Dr, Professor, etc.) should be used both in correspondence and in face-to-face meetings; business contacts are not normally addressed on a first name basis.
  • Although many business people in Greece speak English, a considerable advantage can be gained if one can communicate or have a translator who speaks Greek during business dealings.
  • Greek companies are interested in long-term partnerships. Therefore, once business partnerships are established, they need to be maintained with regular visits to Greece that will ensure continued collaboration.

For more detailed travel information to prepare for a business trip to Greece, please consult DFAIT's travel report on Greece.

Agriculture Sector & Policies

The Greek agriculture sector is largely comprised of small inefficient farms; however, the sector itself is as important to the country socially as it is economically. For instance, olive cultivation is part of the culture and landscape of the local people, and many annual events and festivals celebrate the oil crop.

The agriculture sector continues to be a major employer, which could be considered detrimental to the efficiency of the sector as a whole. While employing as many as three times the people per farm as EU neighbours Italy and France, the sector's actual output is low by comparison. The sector accounts for 3.5% of GDP yet employs 12% of the population. Terrain limitations – Greece is one of the most mountainous countries in Europe, and four-fifths of Greece consists of mountains or hills – coupled with hot summers, which cause frequent droughts and wildfires also limit the sector's output.

Despite these issues, Greece produces high quality and highly sought after export items. Greece's main agricultural products are wheat, corn, barley, sugar beets, olives, tomatoes, wine, tobacco, potatoes, beef and dairy products, and its core exports include: canned peaches, cotton, olive oil, cheese, and olives.

Healthy and safe foods are a major priority for the Greek government, with policies and legal provisions constantly being updated to match scientific development. Environmentally friendly agricultural practices are also being highly encouraged in Greece. Agriculture is seen as beneficial for the climate and natural resources, as well as for providing attractive employment options in rural areas. Important measures are being implemented to decrease the number of fertilizers and pesticides/herbicides in agricultural production. These developing practices have proven especially profitable in the organic foods sector.

The government has made changes to the sector by increasing traditional exports of fruit, vegetables and oil. Revenues resulting from increased exports are being funnelled into the reformulation of farm policies. Alternative farming methods have become popular in Greece in response to government reform initiatives and increasing concerns about the environment. Greece's organic food industry is small in comparison to other European countries; however, in recent years it has experienced tremendous growth. Aquaculture plays a prominent role in the Greek agriculture sector. In addition to traditional catching methods, the fish farming industry has developed as a result of subsidies, including tax breaks on investments. Given the popularity of meat and the reliance on imports, steps have also been taken to provide a greater domestic supply of meat products, with recent success in the domestic poultry market.

Currently, Greece's agriculture sector is governed by the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), in which farmers receive payments that are coupled with the type of crops they grow. Under CAP, Greek producers of cotton, tobacco, olives and many other products receive subsidy assistance. The country is one of the largest beneficiaries per capita of CAPP; however, reforms to CAP in 2007 are in the process of being implemented with the aim to decouple subsidies of particular crops. Member states may apply for a transitional period delaying the reform in their country and phasing in reforms up to 2012.

Contact Information

Canadian Embassy in Athens
Street/Mailing Address:
4 Ioannou Ghennadiou Street
115 21 Athens, Greece
Tel: 30 210-727 3400
Fax: 30 210-727 3480
Web site:

Office Hours: Monday-Friday: 0800 - 1600
Time Difference E.S.T.: +7

Mr. Brian Young
Counsellor (Commercial)
Senior Trade Commissioner
Agricultural Technology and Equipment, Agriculture, Food and Beverages, Fish and Seafood Products, Investment Promotion / Strategic Alliances, Science and Technology

Key Resources

  • "Country Information - Greece." Export Development Greece. N.p., 2010.
  • "Doing Business in Greece - Country Commercial Guide." US Commercial Service. N.p., 2010.
  • "Fact Sheet - Greece." Canadian Trade Commissioner Service. N.p., Sept. 2011.
  • "Greece - Agri-Food Past, Present, Future Report." Agri-Food Trade Service. N.p., July 2008.
  • "Greece - At a Glance." Agri-Food Trade Service. N.p., 2010.
  • "Greece - Country Brief." Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Australian Government. N.p., Aug. 2011.
  • "Greece - Country/Economy Fact Sheet." Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Australian. N.p., June 2011.
  • "Greece Economic Indicators." International Monetary Fund. N.p., 2011.
  • "Greece - World Fact Book." Central Intelligence Agency. N.p., 29 Aug. 2011.
  • Statistics Canada. "Trade Statistics - Greece." Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, May 2011.