By Evie Andreou
LOCALLY-grown fruit was given out at Parliament on Thursday as a protest by producers against the practice by some merchants to label imported fruit and veg as local.
Agriculture Minister Nicos Kouyialis, who was present at the House agriculture committee meeting, said his ministry would come down hard on anyone who was found to be ‘baptising’ imported agricultural products as local, and urged Cypriots to support local products.
Tasos Yiapanis, general secretary of agricultural association Panagrotikos, said farmers were not railing against imports but the practice of labelling them as Cypriot, which deceives consumers.
He said other than the fact that this left Cypriot products unsold, it also damaged their image.
The committee also had on its agenda the ban on imports of EU products by Russia, which has hit Cypriot producers hard. After the meeting Kouyialis said efforts were being made both on an EU and national level to support affected producers.
In Cyprus the embargo largely affects citrus farmers, since out of the €13.5 million in exports to Russia €10.7m related to citrus fruits.
Russia had announced the embargo in August in response to the tightened EU sanctions implemented at against the country over its involvement in the Ukraine crisis. More EU sanctions looked likely yesterday, plus more retaliatory counter measures from Moscow.
Kouyialis said that the ministry was continuing its efforts to export local agricultural products to third and EU countries, specifically the United Arab Emirates and the UK.
He also said that the ministry was trying to support affected producers.
The bad news for citrus producers is that according to Kouyialis the EU, which has at the moment decided to gradually support groups of producers with a series of measures, did not include citrus in its list, although the EU Commission had pledged to put on the table a proposition with measures that would include citrus fruits.