Mussels produced in the region of Pieria, northern Greece where 60 percent of the total production in the country is located, are making great inroads into the European markets.
“In Pieria, approximately 10,500 tons of Mediterranean mussels, as the specific variety is called, are produced annually,” Tassos Draganis, President of the Agricultural Cooperative of Mussel Growers of Makrygialos Pieria, told the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (AMNA).
“Of these, at least 95 percent is exported to Mediterranean countries such as Italy, France, and Spain, while the remaining 5 percent is destined for domestic consumption,” he added.
In April 2020, in the maritime area of Pieria, between the towns of Methoni, Makrygialos, and Kitros, the first Organized Aquaculture Development Area (OAD) for mussels in Greece was established.
“The acres of mussel farms cannot be increased, because the Thermaikos Gulf will not be able to feed them,” Draganis said and added that “we don’t feed the mussels, they feed on the microalgae from the sea.”
Greece ranks fourth in Europe in mussel farming
Greece is ranked fourth among the EU countries in terms of mussel production. Spain is in first place, followed by Italy and France.
Mussels are harvested between April and August and a mussel takes a total of 12-14 months to reach its maturity.
“The Chamber of Pieria, in collaboration with the growers, took a series of actions so that Pieria mussels are now known outside the borders of Greece,” underlined the Deputy Minister of Development, Anna Mani-Papadimitriou.
Speaking about the mussels, the Deputy Minister of Development spoke of “quality products of excellent nutritional value” adding that “our goal is to strengthen the business, that’s what we will try to do and then, to be next to our entrepreneurs” she added.
The next goal for the producers of Pieria is the construction of a mussel-packaging plant, Ilias Hatzichristodoulou, president of the Pieria Chamber of Commerce told AMNA.
“We have added value to the product, from 40 cents in previous years, today the selling price reaches up to one euro per kilo. We want to maintain the surplus value by creating a packaging plant so that the mussels can be transported to the most distant markets,” he emphasized.
As he noted, Greek mussels are exported to Italy for one euro per kilo. There it is packaged and returned back to Greece at prices that can reach four euros per kilo. “We want to get this surplus value, that’s why we are promoting the creation of a modern mussel-packing plant,” he pointed out.
Climate change a threat to mussels
The rise in the temperature of the sea, a result of climate change, has caused problems in mussel cultivation as at 26-28 degrees the large mussel dies while the brood survives.
To deal with this problem, mussel farmers sink their productions to a greater depth, as a greater depth means a lower water temperature.
This is done with the help of special instruments, with which they measure the temperature at different depths and look for the lowest temperature to sink the mussels.