The outbreak of another war so soon after the liberation from Ottoman rule prevented any attempt at economic and social modernization from taking place. Military campaigns, the Bulgarian occupation of eastern Macedonia and the huge fire that destroyed Thessaloniki in August 1917, created insurmountable obstacles to economic development, despite the radical reform efforts by Venizelos in 1917-18.
Thus the economy, which was almost exclusively based on agriculture, continued to depend on traditional methods of cultivation, carried out either in small holdings owned by families or in chiftliks (large estates left over from the Ottoman era and one of the primary reasons for the impoverished state of the peasants). The main products were wheat, cotton, barley and tobacco.
Heavy industry was located in Thessaloniki, while craft industry elsewhere was limited: tobacco processing in Kavala, furs in Kastoria, textiles in Naousa and Veroia. The living standards in the countryside were low (the per capita income was half that of the rest of Greece) and health conditions were appalling (there were many cases of malaria).