EU promotion for mastiche, saffron

10/28/2005 4:32:58 AM

Chios mastiche and Kozani saffron are two of the 15 European farm products included in a European Commission programme to promote the Union’s farm products in third countries, as part of efforts to improve competitiveness of European quality products.

The European Commission, in an announcement on Wednesday, said it has approved measures to provide information on, and to promote, agricultural products in third countries. Member states have submitted 25 promotion and information programmes to the Commission to be examined. For the first time new member states also participated. The 15 programmes that have been accepted are targeted for the United States, Canada, Japan, Russia, Ukraine, China, and Switzerland. The products covered are wine, dairy products, meat, flowers and juices. The estimated expenditure for the EU is € 13 million (50% of the budget of the programmes).

"Improving the competitiveness of EU quality products on markets outside the EU is a major challenge. By investing in promotion and information campaigns for our agricultural products outside the EU, the European Union is showing its determination to take up this challenge", Commissioner Fischer Boel, responsible for Agriculture and Rural Development, said.

The EU can fund, in whole or in part, measures in third countries that provide information on, or promote, agricultural products and food products. These measures can be public relations, promotional or publicity measures, in particular highlighting the advantages of EU products, especially in terms of quality, hygiene, food safety, nutrition, labelling, animal welfare or environment-friendliness. These measures can amongst others also cover participation at events and fairs, information campaigns on the Community system of protected designations of origin (PDOs), protected geographical indications (PGIs) and traditional speciality guaranteed (TSGs) and of organic farming. Also possible are information campaigns on the EU system of quality wines produced in specified regions (QWPSR) and studies of new markets.

The Organic Red Saffron, produced by the renowned Kozani Saffron Cooperative, in Northern Greece, is a certified organic product that is distinguished for its excellent quality which places it in the Coupe Class, the top quality of Saffron in the world. Saffron, made from the dried stigmas of the crocus flower, is the worlds most expensive spice.

Saffron cultivation is believed to date back to Prehistoric Greek times.

The excavations in Knossos, Crete, brought to light some frescoes where saffron is depicted. The most famous of these frescoes is the "saffron gatherer", where it was depicted that there was a monkey amongst the yellow saffron flowers.

Etymologically, the word crocus has its origin from the Greek word "croci" which means the weft, thread used for weaving on a loom.

Mythologically, according to Ovid, the plant took its name from the youth Crocus, who after witnessing in despair the death of fair Smilax was transformed into this flower.

Known since antiquity, saffron it was one of the most desired and expensive spices of ancient Greeks, Egyptians and Romans for its aroma, color and aphrodisiac properties.

It was quite popular among the Phoenician traders, who carried it wherever they traveled. The ancient Assyrians used saffron for medical purposes.

Hippocrates and other Greek doctors of his time, like Dioskourides and Galinos mention crocus as a drug or a therapeutical herb.

From the writings of Homer, who calls dawn "crocus veil", Aeschylus, Pindar, and others, it is known that the crocus was considered a rare pharmaceutical plant of ancient Greece with unique properties. It is referred to throughout ancient history and in the course of many medical writings of the classical Greek and Roman times all the way to the Middle Ages.

Another saffron use in ancient Greece was that of perfumery.

The history of red saffron in modern Greece starts in the 17th century when traders from Kozani, Macedonia, brought the red saffron from Austria.

For 300 years, Greek red saffron is systematically cultivated under the warmth of the Greek sun, in the rich soil of a unique area in Kozani, in western Macedonia.