Greek island fire ravages unique export industry

Topics: From the Wires,

CHIOS, Greece (AP) — In response to Greece’s financial crisis, villagers on the eastern island of Chios carried on with what their ancestors had been profitably doing for centuries: patiently carving lines on mastic trees.

But much of the island’s trademark mastic gum industry went up in scented smoke over the past week as a wildfire ravaged the world’s only mastic tree plantations during the heart of the harvest season.

As firefighters on Friday put out the last flare-ups from the six-day blaze, farmers said up to a quarter of the island’s mastic groves have been wiped out.

In cash terms, producers stand to lose up to €3 million ($3.75 million) a year, because after replanting, it takes up to a decade before producers can start tapping the trees for their aromatic gum.

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