Cyprus Mail

Getting red-faced over ‘mystery tomatoes’

By Evie Andreou

PRESS reports and claims that tomatoes from Turkey, some even with uncertified pesticides, had made their way on to Greek Cypriot tables, have been refuted by officials from both sides, including the Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Commerce (KTTO) that would have been the certifying body, in accordance with the Green Line Trade regulations.

Earlier in the week, Greek Cypriot farmers protested over a large quantity of tomatoes from the north that ended up in the Nicosia municipal market and disputed the origins of the product. They said some 16 tonnes was in fact produced in Turkey and made its way to the south via the Green Line regulation.

The farmers based their claims on the fact that this large quantity of tomatoes could not be accounted for given recent shortages on the market in the north, due to unfavourable weather. They also said that the specific variety was not easily cultivated in Cyprus and called for checkpoint testing of all agricultural products that cross the dividing line to avoid flooding the market with foodstuffs from Turkey tainted by pesticides.

Agriculture minister Nicos Kouyialis announced that he would call for a probe into the issue, through the European Commission, as he said it is not the first time produce from Turkey crosses through the Green Line regulation.

In addition, it was reported that tomatoes imported from Turkey, ridden with pesticides, ended up in National Guard camps.

Furthermore, the Turkish Cypriot press on Wednesday appeared to bear out their concerns. Kibris Postasi reported that health services in the north had detected pesticides exceeding permitted levels on tomatoes imported from Turkey last week and that a quantity of that batch was sold to the government-controlled areas after acquiring permission from the KTTO.

The Ministry of defence, often accused of receiving below standard equipment or poor quality meat and vegetables, said that it was not a recipient of the dreaded tomatoes.
“The National Guard procures Cypriot vegetables… while it carries additional checks,” minister Christophoros Fokaides said.

If the tomatoes had been imported into the north from Turkey, to meet a supply shortage, they would still need a KTTO certification in order to travel over the Green Line.

“The Turkish Cypriot chamber of commerce is fulfilling its role meticulously for the proper implementation of the Green Line regulation,” the organisation’s chairman Fikri Toros told the Cyprus Mail.

He added that the claims in the press regarding the tomatoes are not based on proven facts, hence are damaging to the economic and political relations between the communities.

“The KTTO takes every measure to ensure a thorough compliance with the Green Line regulation.

Therefore before issuing any accompanying document, the chamber inspects the rule of origin in collaboration with the appropriate authorities, and takes every measure to abandon any likelihood of improper trade,” Toros said.

He added that the Chamber does random checks on the production sites and fields and it also contacts the Turkish Cypriot department of agriculture to confirm that the producer is a tomato grower, before issuing accompanying documents to the producers or tradesmen.

KTTO also investigates, he said, whether there is enough production to justify the declaration of the producer on the Green Line trade application form.

As regards the import of tomatoes to the north, he said that authorities had allowed their import “to control the soaring price of local produce”.

“In this particular case, the department found pesticides in two consignments, which were returned to the country of origin,” Toros said.

He added that according to the department of agriculture in the north, there are around 400 tonnes of local tomatoes available at the fields located in various areas in the Kyrenia and Morphou districts.

Toros said that both the allegations about the imported tomatoes crossing the Green Line with documents provided by the KTTO, and about the tomatoes with pesticides entering the north, are false.

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