When Antonios Rezitis decided to move from Athens to Helsinki for three years, his key motivators were the good reputations of the Finnish education system and the University of Helsinki.
"I had always wanted to try working at a North European top university. And now I’m here.”
Rezitis is the first non-Finn to serve as the University of Helsinki's professor of agricultural policy – a field traditionally considered to be very national by nature.
He was not previously familiar with Finnish agriculture. In his new research project, the professor will focus on consumer prices, which are his specialty. The price formation of agricultural products has been his most important object of interest for quite some time.
Rezitis points out that the price of a bag of groceries is much more dependent on the decisions made by the retailer than good and bad crop years.
“For some products, only about twenty or ten per cent of the price goes to the producers. The rest goes to transportation, packaging, taxation, retail costs and so forth.”
The sins of the grocery chains?
In European terms, food is expensive in Finland. The centralisation of food retail is often cited as the reason for this – the two biggest companies, S-ryhmä and Kesko, reign supreme in the Finnish food trade. Kesko is even listed among the top ten largest multi-business retail companies in the world.
Rezitis thinks the monopoly explanation is too simple. “If the duopoly were keeping prices high artificially, other companies would enter the market. Now Lidl has come to Finland to challenge the traditional food retailers.”
Rezitis is a proponent of free trade. “The European Union should support free trade everywhere in the world. This would bring prices down and enable economic growth.”
Support for processing and the environment
In addition to free trade, Rezitis calls for support for European agricultural producers, channelled through work cooperatives or producer groups that would enable producers to focus on more processed products.
“Similarly to what Finland is doing with dairy products. You are very competitive in that field.”
He believes that farmers investing in ecologically sustainable methods should also be subsidised. The current style of agricultural subsidy, however, he considers a short-term solution.
“The agricultural sector should also be based on competition. Subsidies and competition are incompatible.”
Welcome to the inaugural lecture
Antonios Rezitis will join other recently appointed professors to give his inaugural lecture at the University’s Main Building on Wednesday 27 May.
The short lectures represent several disciplines, require no specialist knowledge and are open to the general public. The topics range from the first moments of the universe to privacy protection and from religious debate to arthritis. The first lectures begin at 14.15.