Importers of Greek food stockpiling products amid economic turmoil

Major Canadian importers of olive oil, sea salt, preserved vegetables and other delicacies from Greece say they’ve been stockpiling goods in their warehouses in anticipation that the economic turmoil overseas will get worse.

TORONTO — Major Canadian importers of olive oil, sea salt, preserved vegetables and other delicacies from Greece say they’ve been stockpiling goods in their warehouses in anticipation that the economic turmoil overseas will get worse.

The Canadian companies say the economic crisis in Greece won’t keep products off store shelves here for a while, but recent events make their preparations seem wise.

A referendum held on Sunday saw Greek citizens reject the idea of adopting more austerity measures in exchange for financial aid from the European Union. The debt-ridden country has shut banks for six working days and imposed strict limits on cash withdrawals.

Greece’s precarious financial situation may force it to abandon the euro and begin issuing its own currency.

Canadian businesses are keeping a close eye on the economic situation, but don’t immediately seem to feel their bottom lines will require much extra scrutiny.

“Business as usual for us,” said Miltiadis Antypas, President of Pilaros International Trading Inc. “The companies we’re dealing with, most of them are multinational. They don’t pay us, we pay them, so the situation is not changing for us.”

The food products that companies such as Pilaros import to Canadian shores represent a significant piece of the Greek-Canadian trading relationship. According to 2014 figures posted on the country’s Greek embassy website, Canada imported nearly $57 million in food products from Greece, more than double the second-largest import of base metal products.

That figure represents a paltry sum for a country whose 2014 imports totalled $524.2 billion, but companies say Greek food products are highly popular with consumers.

In order to meet the demand, Antypas said his company’s warehouses are currently filled with at least a five-month supply of goods such as olives and olive oil, sea salt and other products with a long shelf life.

Alex Alexakis, vice-president of Canadian operations at Krinos Foods, said his firm too has been stockpiling supplies.

“We’re OK for a couple of months at least,” Alexakis said, while stressing that the situation could deteriorate if Greek and EU officials don’t find a resolution to the economic crisis soon.

Besieged by a prolonged recession, high unemployment and banks dangerously low on capital, Greece defaulted on repaying a loan to the International Monetary Fund last week, becoming the first developed nation to do so.

Now some analysts wonder if Greece is so starved of cash that it could be forced to start issuing its own currency and become the first country to leave the 19-member eurozone, established in 1999.

Greece and its creditors, who will meet again Tuesday to discuss how to keep the country in the euro, remain far apart on key issues, particularly the notion of debt relief.

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