So, it seems that as Greeks are having their country sold out from underneath them, and as they suffer through massive cuts to social spending, tens of thousands of job losses and huge tax increases all in order to satisfy some of the demands of The Market – a market whose own needs apparently trump those of real people – Greek citizens are finding creative ways of getting by in a new reality. But as the truly exploitative nature of that new reality and of the 'marketplace' it represents becomes increasingly obvious, people are doing something truly novel: they're setting up their own markets to satisfy their own needs.
"Salaries are very low, taxes are very high and the price of products doesn't seem to follow," says Sofia Manidou, one of those waiting in line. "We have to pay a lot of money for basic products like potatoes."
We first got the idea a month ago, when we heard about desperate farmers protesting against how little vendors were willing to pay for their potatoes. Instead of selling them to middlemen at a loss or letting them rot, they decided to just give them away to people on the street for free. So we thought, why not cut out the middleman?
Farmers here used to sell their potatoes for 0,12 cents a kilo, even though it cost them nearly twice that to produce. We set up a website for people to order potatoes and come pick them up in a parking lot, straight out of the farmers’ trucks. The farmers sell them for 0,25 cents a kilo – nearly three times less than they cost in the supermarkets! So both farmers and customers benefit.
So far we’ve had two pick-up days: on the first, two weeks ago, the farmers sold 25 tons of potatoes to more than 500 people. On the second, last Saturday, they sold 75 tons to more than 1,100 people. I never dreamed we would have such success! All sorts of people came to buy the potatoes – some of them were poor or unemployed; some were better-off, but wanted to help support the initiative. I believe the potato sales have gained such popularity because we’re all united now – there are no real social classes any more; everyone is struggling.
A funny thing happened – as soon as people starting buying these cheap potatoes, all the local supermarkets started making potato “offers” where they slashed their prices from 0,70 cents a kilo to just 0,35 cents… But that’s still more expensive than what we’re offering.
Stelios Ioannidis, one of the farmers taking part, off-loading dozens of sacks of potatoes to the eager customers explained,
The middleman exploits us by buying our products at low prices. We want to help the consumer in these difficult times.This sends a message that a few people can't profit at the expense of all of us.
The seed of this potentially revolutionary movement, aptly named the Potato Revolution, was planted a few months ago in the northern town of Katerini and has proved so successful that it's spread throughout the country, growing ever more popular as Greeks struggle with the worst financial disaster in modern history.
Thousands of tonnes of potatoes are being sold directly from the farmer to the consumer, cutting out the costly middlemen and so slashing prices by more than half.
Similar schemes are in the pipeline for rice, flour and olive oil. It's a movement that benefits both sides, with farmers earning for what they produce, without paying large intermediary fees to wholesalers.
Imagine that, a market that benefits both sides. How novel.