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Athens News Agency: News in English, 10-01-31

Athens News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

CONTENTS

  • [01] Experimental cultivation of stevia rebaudiana as alternative crop is 'promising'
  • [02] Roadblocks continue for 17th day

  • [01] Experimental cultivation of stevia rebaudiana as alternative crop is 'promising'

    Called by many "the plant of the new millennium" and "the sugar of the future", Stevia was completely unknown in Greece up until 2006 when the University of Thessaly commenced a systematic scientific research aimed at introducing the plant to Greek farmers as an alternative crop, an effort that is ongoing.

    According to Professor Petros Lolas, Thessaly University is the only foundation in Greece to systematically study stevia, which has been experimentally introduced in several parts of the country.

    Lolas told ANA-MPA that stevia is of major agricultural, industrial and commercial interest for Greece, but also the EU, with respect to the growth of the agricultural and national economy.

    Regarding the agricultural perspective, stevia could in the next 4-6 years, under certain conditions, become the new alternative crop for the former tobacco producers, Lolas said, adding that stevia cultivation could contribute to the diversification of Greek agricultural but also to the exploitation of large farm expanses that have been abandoned. Given the current prices for stevia leaves internationally, the plant could ensure a satisfactory income and employment, without requiring subsidisation.

    Since the plant is not threatened by many or serious 'enemies' or diseases, it is suitable for organic production and thisis considered a "green" cultivation.

    The species Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni, commonly known as sweetleaf, sweet leaf, sugarleaf, or simply stevia, is widely grown for its sweet leaves. As a sugar substitute, steviaās taste has a slower onset and longer duration than that of sugar, although some of its extracts may have a bitter or liquorice-like aftertaste at high concentrations.

    In 2006 and 2007, University of Thessaly studies on the plantās adjustability, productivity and affordability conducted in ten agricultural regions in Greece (Serres, Xanthi, Grevena, Katerini, Toumpa Kilkis, Lamia, Drama, Zagliveri, Tithorea, Agrinio) produced very encouraging results. The plantās adjustability was proved to be satisfactory in conditions of limited fertilizer use and irrigation while is highly resistant to insects or diseases.

    Professor Lolas, who heads the University of Thessaly research program, stressed that Stevia rebaudiana can be an innovative and alternative crop, replacing conventional and problematic ones, and can lead consumers in Greece and the EU away from the use of sugar and synthetic sweeteners. The specific plant can ensure a good income for farmers even better than tobacco.

    Stevia rebaudiana is a species of herbs and shrubs in the sunflower family native to subtropical and tropical South America and Central America discovered in 1887 in Paraguay. For centuries, the Guaran? tribes of Paraguay and Brazil used Stevia species, primarily S. rebaudiana which they called kaāa heāe ("sweet herb"), as a sweetener in medicinal teas for treating heartburn and other ailments.

    [02] Roadblocks continue for 17th day

    Protesting farmers entered their 17th day of roadblocks on Sunday, as representatives from 20 major regional roadblocks met in Serres, near the blocked-off Promahonas border post, and decided on nine central demands to be put to the government.

    Demands include remuneration for lost income and guaranteed prices in farming and animal breeding products, protection of local production from imports of the same products, linking of subsidies with production and abolition of all the "legal" and "illegal" withholdings and subsidisation of basic farming supplies, reduction of production costs through abolition of VAT on supplies and equipment and on petrol, a 3-year freeze on farmers' debts and deduction of all the overdue debt penalties that have been imposed on their loans, full insurance of agricultural production and agricultural capital against all natural hazards, and reduction of the retirement age to 60 for men farmers and 55 for women farmers.

    Apart from the nine joint demands, it was decided during the meeting that farmers from every regional roadblock maintain the right to pursue specific local demands as well.

    Meanwhile, roadblocks in Northern Greece and Thessaly remained intact for a third week, as farmers decided to carry on with dynamic mobilisations following an impasse in negotiations with the government.

    However, farmers who have been blocking the Promahonas border post decided on Sunday evening to open up the crossing on the border with Bulgaria, which had been blocked since Friday morning, for trucks.

    The blockade had resulted in a 25-kilometer queue of trucks carrying goods to form on the Greek side of the border, while a queue approximately double that length had formed on the Bulgarian side.

    A spokesman for the farmers said that trucks will be allowed through until the congestion at the border station has been cleared up, and the crossing will be re-closed late Sunday night.

    Also, the Egnatia motorway remained blocked at the Kerdyllia intersection, while the Serres-Thessaloniki highway at the Strymonikos juncture was open.


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