Farmers called on Friday for a stop to the transport of potatoes from the north as tonnes of their own produce was being left unsold.
In a letter to Agriculture Minister, Nicos Kouyialis, the farmers’ associations Eka, Pek, Panagrotikos, Nea Agrotiki Kinisi and Evroagrotikos, protested the transport of around 2,500 tonnes of potatoes from the north under the Green Line regulations by a number of merchants.
“We believe that this action will harm the interests of potato producers and will be the final blow, after last year’s bad season with losses suffered by potato producers, with unpredictable consequences on the economy of the country,” the letter said.
The potato marketing board, they said, have 3,000 tonnes of the produce in stock that have not been sold. Traders could buy the potatoes they need from there instead of bringing them over from the north, they argued.
They also said that within the next 10 days the spring crop would be harvested “so they will come into the market along with the potatoes coming from the north with all the negative commercial consequences”.
Farmers also expressed concerns over consumer health.
“In the north farmers use pesticides forbidden by the European Union. There is the possibility that these products might have remains on them of these banned pesticides that endanger the health of consumers as well as the good name of Cypriot potatoes,” it said.
They called for stricter phytosanitary controls and for the possibility of “putting a stop to this unacceptable act of bringing competing products from the north while being aware that most of these products come from our own occupied lands”.
Earlier in the day the agriculture ministry had said that around 272 tonnes of potatoes crossed from the north this week under the Green Line regulations. The ministry was responding to a question on the issue put forward by the Solidarity Movement.
The ministry said that it “applies with due seriousness and responsibility the provisions of the Green Line regulations”.
It added that the cargo was accompanied with all the necessary documents and that ministry officials carried out all checks and took samples for lab tests to confirm the absence of harmful substances.
Prior to any transport of potatoes from the north to the government-controlled areas, EU experts confirm, both at the production stage and at the stage of harvesting and preparation for marketing, the conformity of the consignment with current phytosanitary rules and draw up a phytosanitary report which accompanies the goods, the ministry said.
The Green Line regulations were put in place when Cyprus became an EU member state in 2004 and lay down special rules concerning goods crossing the line between the areas of the Republic of Cyprus and the north to secure an equivalent standard of protection of the security of the EU with regard to illegal immigration and threats to public order, and of its economic interests as far as the movement of goods is concerned.