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The tobacco farmers chasing a sweeter crop



Seven years ago, a group of Greek farmers stopped growing tobacco and switched to a trendy alternative to sugar - stevia.
They made the change after being persuaded by a mechanical engineer called Christos Stamatis, who wanted to emulate the success of six California tobacco growers who had also started to cultivate the stevia plant.
An extract of the plant's leaves makes a natural, calorie-free sugar substitute. It has been around for centuries, but has only started to enter the mainstream in the past 10 years.
Mr Stamatis sought out farmers in his native region of Fthiotida - in their fields or during their breaks in the local caf├ęs - to convince them to plant stevia instead of their less profitable tobacco crop.
His power of persuasion worked, as 150 farmers each contributed €500 ($557; £422) towards setting up the Stevia Hellas Co-operative.

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