Greek governments have been battling over sole ownership of the “Greek yogurt” product for decades, with a new big battle inside the EU rapidly rising. This time it is the Czech Republic which is under the sights of the Greek Agriculture Ministry.
The government is now considering legal action against the Czech Republic for producing – and profiting from – a product it claims exclusively as its own.
The move is part of an action plan drawn up by a 14-member working group set up this month by Greece’s Agriculture Ministry. It is ramping up efforts to block non-Greek producers – at least within the European Union – from manufacturing the thick, creamy dairy delight known to palates across the world.
The European Commission has already warned Prague that its production of imitation Greek yoghurt is creating unfair competition. So far though, to no avail. As a result, Athens is now taking a harder line.
With the product’s global market estimated to be over 50 billion euros ($59.6 billion), Greece’s bid to reclaim ownership of its prized product could claw back billions of euros in lost trade from certain key markets. The European Union itself is the world’s largest consumer of Greek yogurt, accounting for 39% of its global trade. Asia ranks second with 28%, with North America accounting for 15%.
Rival manufacturers have already staked a foothold in the thriving industry. Yet despite the product’s popularity, driven by a sweeping perception that the food is healthier than regular yogurt and other health snacks, Greece’s leading dairy manufacturer FAGE is seeing sales swoon.
The Ministry is increasingly weighing its options, especially the possibility of seeking legal recourse with the European Court of Justice to stop the Czech Republic and other countries from producing Greek yogurt, which is often twice as expensive as regular yogurt.
Other options Athens is considering include stepping up plans to register Greek yogurt as “a product protected by its geographical indication.” This status would ensure that the product is manufactured in its country of origin – something akin to French Champagne, Italian prosciutto and English Stilton.
Officials in Athens hope to secure this status by the end of the year.