Potato farmers in Cyprus are increasingly concerned about the difficulties they face selling their product, especially as regards exports which have been heavily affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
With potatoes accumulating in storage rooms and warehouses, farmers in the Famagusta district handed out sacks of the produces for free to drivers at the Xylophagou exit of the Larnaca-Famagusta highway on Thursday and Friday.
Many farmers are also complaining about the lack of staff at packing factories at a crucial time for them, just before the start of the harvest season.
One understaffed factory in Astromeritis on Thursday was forced to ask for the help of the agriculture ministry to pack large quantities of a certain type of potato which should have been exported in the past weeks, but that are just piled on the floor and starting to rot. There was also a shortage of boxes to pack the potatoes.
Agriculture ministry officials had to be dispatched to the factory to help with the actual packing and storage of the products.
“There are simply not enough people working here, we are in grave difficulty, that is why we had to ask for the ministry’s help,” Andreas Constantinou, a manager at the factory, told the Cyprus Mail.
“Civil servants came to our aid, but the situation remains problematic. We simply have too many potatoes that will remain unsold and will eventually have to be thrown away.”
In the meantime, the situation in the Famagusta district for potato farmers is worrying. Farmers who gave their products for free to ongoing cars at the Xylophagou exit held placards about their plight.
“We are potato farming families, but our potatoes are rotting away in Cyprus. We offer you our product in solidarity, but also to learn about our problem,” one read.
“Cypriot potatoes will not be sold this year either. We stopped to give you a few potatoes, so you can learn about our problems. We also have children, we have loans to pay,” read another.
Panicos Panayi, a manager at Sedigep, a co-operative grower’s union established in 1964 with the purpose of treating, packing and marketing agricultural products, said potato farmers are worried that most of their produce will remain unsold.
“The pandemic created massive problems for them,” he told the Cyprus Mail.
“The income of these farmers is mostly comprised of money coming from exports, which did not yet take place and most probably will not happen in the upcoming months as well.
“The government is aware of the situation and of how serious it is. They promised to help but time is running short,” he concluded.