By Evie Andreou
THE first bi-communal olive oil festival will mark the beginning of a cooperation that will benefit producers on both sides of the divide, Greek and Turkish Cypriot olive oil producers’ associations SEKEP and ZEYBIR announced yesterday.
The festival, called ‘Let’s grow together’ is taking place at the weekend at the Ledra Palace checkpoint area and is supported by the EU-funded ‘Crop Husbandry’ project that has been providing technical support to Turkish Cypriot farmers for the last six years.
“We hope that this meeting will be the beginning of a new cooperation between the two organisations that will contribute to the support of the Cypriot olive producers,” SEKEP chairman Philippos Kameris said.
He said that SEKEP’s goal is to support Cypriot olive oil producers to find new markets, grow new olive varieties and fight the olive fruit fly (Dacus).
“As Cypriot olive producers we were working together in many mixed villages before 1974 and now we decided to get together under the umbrella of the European Union with this weekend’s event,” Kameris said.
ZEYBIR’s chairman Irfan Çelik said that the goal is to set a bi-communal platform, where the two organisations will analyse all their problems and find solutions to ultimately create a Cypriot identity in olive oil products.
“We have the same problems, we share the same future, the solutions are identical and the problems we need to solve are in parallel with the same strategy,” Çelik said.
One of the problems both sides want to tackle is the elimination of the olive fruit fly.
Çelik said that the approach needs to be bi-communal and that if it is eliminated with organic methods, it opens the way to organic farming.
“Unless this project is undertaken by the whole island, we cannot succeed. Then we will be able to present ourselves at a different platform as organic producers, not just for olives, but also citrus, pomegranate, etc.,” he said.
“The olive branch is a sign for peace; I believe it is the most powerful natural cement that brings us together for a more prosperous future” Çelik said.
“The sector is economically important not only because olives and olive oil are an important part of the daily diet but also because there are real opportunities for developing a high-quality and high-value oriented Cyprus olive sector from which the economies of both communities shall attain huge benefits at micro and macro levels,” said the director of ‘Crop Husbandry’ Christian Harel.
The festival will be opened on Saturday with a technical round table meeting and discussions, while on Sunday from 10am to 6pm, the public will be able to
visit the 40 stands of companies that will display their products, not just olive oil, but also citrus and pomegranate.
There will be olive oil tasting, traditional folk dancing and even a surprise for children. The activities will take place at the Fulbright Centre and Chateau Status.