New Agriculture Minister Petros Xenofontos on Tuesday pledged the government would prioritise support for agriculture to boost product competitiveness.

He made the comments during his first meeting with MPs after being appointed minister.

Xenofontos said his ministry would push forward legislation aimed at facilitating and improving the primary sector, the exploitation of natural resources including farming, fishing and mining.

He said the ministry has set as its key goal the implementation of the 2023-2027 Common Agriculture Policy Strategic Plan – which provides for total funding of €454 million, of which 80 per cent comes from EU funds and the rest from national funds.

The minister also spoke of the creation of an electronic auction market, which he said would lead to better planning in production while also making transactions more secure and ensuring the timely payment of farmers.

“We are also confident that, in this way, we will limit as far as possible the difference in the sales price from producers and the price at which consumers buy – redressing one of the biggest injustices in the supply chain when it comes to foodstuffs.”

Another scheme in the pipeline involves creating a Farmer’s Card’ – for which a study will be carried out in collaboration with the banks. Card holders would benefit from working capital facilities.

On pesticides and antibiotics, Xenofondos said the objective was to reduce their use. The ministry is considering setting up a mechanism to control use of these products in farming and animal husbandry.

In addition, enhanced checks of products – imports as well as those produced locally -will be carried out. This likewise applied to products traded with the north under the Green Line Regulation.

The minister also spoke of promoting sustainable fishing and aquaculture.