Before World War I the agricultural sector occupied approximately 65% of the Greek population. But low agricultural productivity and the long-standing crises in selling the produce of mono-cultivations, mostly currant which was produced in the northwestern provinces of Peloponnese, urged a considerable part of the active population to emigrate. In 1914 the large landed properties in the central and northern part of the Greek territory (Thessaly, the New Territories) represented 33-35% of the entire tillable land. The owners of these large properties, the "tsiflikouchoi" (big landowners), had the possibility to impose and maintain high duties on imported grain by making use of their political connections. In this way, the price of bread in the cities increased, instead of falling as was initially expected, when the chiefly grain-producing regions of Thessaly and later Macedonia were incorporated in the Greek territory. The particular tariff policy resulted in the coalition between urban populations and landless farmers, who brought pressure to bear upon the state to redistribute the land.

However, the decisive factor that conduced to the resolution of this major social problem was the refugee influx. A great number of Greeks from different regions outside the borders of the Greek territory started to arrive to Greece from the first decade of the century. That was a result of the armed conflicts and hostile attitude of the belligerent parties against the people that had the same descent with their enemies. The increase of the refugees' number would escalate gradually culminating in the Asia Minor disaster in 1922 and the population exchange (1923-24).