Greece’s potato movement: Cut out the middleman
In a country where the ‘troika’ (European Union, International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank) has imposed crippling, draconian austerity measures, the people are finding resourceful ways to survive.
Greece is in its fifth year of recession, with unemployment at 21%, medicines in critically short supply and nearly 10% of Athens’ residents using soup kitchens.
Last month I posted about some ways Greeks are bypassing conventional economics by bartering and using alternative currencies. But these were generally limited to small communities with no large, echoing effects throughout the country.
The potato movement has changed all that. Struck by sharp losses in income, higher taxes and increased prices for essentials, the people of Greece have come up with a way to buy staple foods – principally potatoes, but also rice, flour, onions and olives – directly from suppliers at only a third of what they would pay in the supermarkets.
With many Greeks now taking home 30% less than before the crisis, but prices of plenty of products still impossibly high, the movement is a clever and, for many, vital way to cut costs that is of practical help to both parties to the transaction. There is anecdotal evidence, too, that supermarket prices are starting to fall, certainly on direct sale days, in response to it.
Cooperatives and volunteer groups are also springing up around the country – and this has positive psychological effects as well as practical ones.
Though these are all reactions to undeniably tough times in Greece, they help show that sometimes quality of life has no direct correlation with things like economic growth or how much money is changing hands.