WITH only to up to €2 million per annum, Cyprus is the EU country which has the lowest turnover from sales of organic food to the public, though the number of organic farmers has increased significantly in recent years.
In four EU countries (Denmark, Luxembourg, Austria and Sweden) the per capita consumption of organic food per year is over €100, while in some other EU countries (e.g. Cyprus, Portugal, Bulgaria) it is less than €5.
The number of organic farmers is up from 45 in 2002 to 743 in 2014. This relative success is mainly due to the cultivation of organic olives which make up 28.4 per cent of organic production. However, Cyprus is ranked 20th of all EU countries regarding the total area of organic cultivation. Only three per cent of its agricultural land is used for this purpose. At the top of the scale is Austria with 19 per cent.
The limits of organic food production despite objectives and incentives by the EU were presented on Thursday at a conference on ‘Organic Agriculture: Prospects for the development, climate change and public health’ organised by the Agricultural Research Institute, the Department of Environment and the university of technology Tepak.
As TEPAK professor Konstantinos Makris pointed out at the event, though Cyprus is included in the EU action plan to supply 50 per cent of food to schools, army camps and hospitals in the form of organic products, this has so far not been achieved.
“In contrast, in many EU countries the percentage of the use of biological products is large,” he said, adding that in Italy the government offers organic food in all kindergartens.
At the conference Makris also introduced a new project by the Cyprus International Institute for the Environment and Public Health which works under Tepak. The institute is looking for 200 children in the fifth and sixth grade from Limassol primary schools who will be provided with five free meals a day all made with organic raw materials for 40 days by their school and families.
Tests will be carried out before and after the project to determine whether the consumption of organic products can lead to reductions of the amount of pesticides in children’s systems and whether it is effective in reducing oxidative stress and inflammation.
The innovative programme, the first of its kind in Europe, is supported by the EU Commission, the education ministry and the Organic Producers Association of Cyprus.