By Angelos Anastasiou
Cypriot farmers plan to take their tractors in front of the European Commission representative offices in Nicosia in protest of the agricultural policy followed by Brussels, unless their demands are met by October.
Following deliberations between union reps and agricultural unions, the farmers decided to pass a list of their demands both to the government of Cyprus and the European Union’s representation in Cyprus.
“The memo is ready, we’re just putting the final touches on it,” Panagricultural Union of Cyprus deputy head Christos Papapetrou told the Cyprus Mail on Monday.
“Some of the issues are horizontal, meaning they affect the whole industry, and others are specific to some branches.”
Chief among the issues raised by the farmers was the absence of an agricultural growth programme.
Additionally, agricultural unions raised the cost of implementation of EU regulations by Cypriot producers. The issue relates both to trade with third countries and the movement of goods from the occupied areas.
Specifically, they argued, while Greek Cypriot farmers are confined by strict production standards, the EU enters trade agreements with third countries, resulting in imported products sold at half the price, which local producers can’t match.
The same applies to products from the occupied areas. Greek Cypriot farmers described the buffer zone as a “hole”, through which products from the occupied areas are imported and distributed across Europe, though they have been treated with pesticides that Greek Cypriot farmers are banned from using.
Another complaint the farmers voiced was the passing off of imported products as made in Cyprus. This problem has mostly presented in meat, eggs, and fruit, where large quantities are peddled as Cypriot products, misleading and profiteering at the expense of local consumers.
“This is an outrage for farmers,” Papapetrou said.
“We know it’s being done because Cypriot farmers can’t sell our produce, and yet the stores are loaded with ‘Cypriot’ fruit – where could they possibly get them? And, the other day I saw cherries being sold at an open-air market, where the law says that only Cypriot produce can be sold – but we don’t have cherries in Cyprus. They don’t even try to hide it anymore.”
Further, the farmers have complained about taxes on farmland, as well as extending agriculture diesel subsidies to include transport fuel.
“At the moment, farmers are required to pay immovable property tax on farmland that is far away from their place of residence, but farmland close to their home is exempt,” said Papapetrou.
“The reason for this clause isn’t clear – it makes no sense.”
The farmers also requested updates from the government on the impact the Russian embargo on the EU has had on Cyprus’ agricultural industry.
“This is actually a much more complex issue than it might seem,” the union rep told the Cyprus Mail.
“The Russian embargo has not only hit Cyprus. It has also hit fellow producers in neighbouring countries, including Greece. And I know for a fact that Cypriot traders import Greek produce at humiliating prices, and then sell it as products of Cyprus at prices much lower than produce actually produced in Cyprus.”