Government to launch e-grocery store

Drawing on the successful example of citizen groups around the country, the Greek government plans to launch an online platform for buying groceries in a bid to reduce prices for consumers, Kathimerini understands.

The creation of the online grocery store, which will be designed by the Development Ministry in cooperation with the Thessaloniki Central Market, aims to sidestep middlemen who are widely accused of driving up prices in order to increase profit margins.

Products such as tomatoes are said to cost up to 130 percent more by the time they reach supermarket shelves.

The government campaign comes in the wake of a Web-based initiative in the town of Katerini, near Thessaloniki, where local activists use the Internet to help people get cheap food by buying directly from producers. According to observers, the initiative has managed to reduce prices to less than half those at supermarkets.

Other Greek cities have emulated the idea. Activists in Veria, central Macedonia, and the coastal port city of Volos have already ordered potatoes directly from growers, Kathimerini understands.

Experts say online shopping could also help fight extensive so-called origin fraud, whereby suppliers intentionally misrepresent where a product has come from to mislead consumers into paying more.

Police in Greece and Cyprus yesterday said they were close to dismantling a racket that sold Egyptian potatoes as Cypriot.

Hit by a raft of belt-tightening measures including wage and pension cuts, Greeks are seeking ways to make up for lost earnings.

Now the debt-wracked nation is under pressure from its foreign lenders -- the International Monetary Fund and the European Union -- to embrace free market reforms and cost-cutting measures to become more competitive. Analysts have in the past warned against price fixing and other forms of market manipulation in the country.

Development Ministry officials said the creation of the grocery website will be funded by the EU-backed National Strategic Reference Framework (ESPA). An open international tender will be held next month. The cost of the project is estimated at 300,000 euros.

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