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Commandaria industry facing ‘serious problems’

Cyprus Commandaria Wine

Lawmakers on Tuesday pledged to take action to help the 14 villages that produce commandaria – a sweet dessert wine – and who are experiencing a bottleneck in sales and distribution.

A delegation of the House agriculture committee visited the affected areas and spoke with traders.

In a statement later, committee chair Yiannakis Gavriel spoke of “serious problems” facing the industry.

“After two years of implementation of green harvesting, we have learned that the agriculture ministry will not continue with a third year, and at the same time other problems have come up, relating to organisation, distribution and marketing of the product,” he said.

Under the EU’s wine support programme, wine-producing member states like Cyprus may offer financial support for a number of measures, including green harvesting – the process of removing extra grape bunches from a vine when young – ensuring there isn’t a glut of excess grapes.

On the flipside, many grape growers have grown overly reliant on these programmes.

One immediate measure MPs will propose to the agriculture ministry is the placing of commandaria kiosks at the seven Christmas villages operating across the island to boost sales.

Legislators will also seek a meeting with the agriculture minister to outline the five major issues faced by the so-called commandaria villages.

A second proposal is to set up a cooperative of winegrowers. This, Gavriel said, would prevent growers from being exploited by wineries “who for the last two years have not been receiving grapes.”

The local wine industry was hit hard during the coronavirus pandemic, with sales plummeting both in the domestic market and overseas, leading to vats filled with the previous year’s vintage.

Gavriel stressed that commandaria production is a separate matter to the rest of the wine industry, as the product holds a protected designation of origin (PDO) within the European Union, which restricts production by donum.

Under legislation passed in March 1990, long before Cyprus acceded to the EU, commandaria is produced only in a collection of 14 neighbouring villages in the area of Troodos.

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