ekathimerini, a daily newspaper published in Athens, gives news of a store in the northern Athenian suburb of Halandri – ELGI (Elliniki Gi, or Greek Earth).
Opened in December, this is the first urban consumer cooperative in Greece, started up in response to the rising cost of basic necessities. A word-of-mouth publicity campaign keeps attracting new members to the scheme, which now counts 230 people.
“Our prices are 40% or more below those on the market,” explains the vice president of the company’s board, Dimitris Kostakis, a lawyer.
“The process for setting up the co-op took around four or five months. The way it works is that members purchase a cooperative share worth 20 euros and are then entitled – along with their immediate family – to buy goods here for the rest of their lives.”
“The idea for the co-op came quite spontaneously,” Eleni Alexiou-Dimou, the president of the board and supply supervisor, tells Kathimerini. “I make my own bread and in early 2012 noticed the cost of raw materials and other ingredients had gone up. So some friends and I started looking for good-quality flour at a reasonable price.”
Her quest took her to Trikala in central Greece. “There are a lot of mills in the area and we found a producer who was prepared to sell us flour at 0.65-0.70 cents a kilo, when the average retail price was 3 euros a kilo,” Alexiou-Dimou explains.
She then went in search of good, cheap rice, and found that as well: “Both products were sent to us in Athens in very large quantities, which we shared out between anyone who was interested. The producers also benefit because then a cut doesn’t have to go to the middlemen”.
“Our goal is to lend our support to producers of good-quality Greek products,” the head of ELGI says. “We pay for our purchases in advance and in cash.”
Earlier this month a similar store opened on the eastern coast of Attica at Nea Makri. Syn & Dimiourgia, as the cooperative is called, has 150 members. “Our products are sold at prices that are from 30 to 150 percent cheaper than at retail stores,” Aris Kokkinis, the cooperative’s president, tells Kathimerini, explaining that it works with producers from around the area.
“With this initiative, among other objectives, we want to encourage the unemployed to turn to farming by ensuring an outlet for their products via the co-op,” says Kokkinos.
Similar cooperatives are currently also doing business in Sepolia and Argyroupoli, while a new shop is being planned for Zografou – all in Athens.