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Grain advisory body to release 30% of reserves to offset shortages (Updated)

file photo: wheat harvesting in kyiv region amid russia's attack on ukraine

Cyprus is to release up to 7,000 tonnes of grains, corresponding to 30 per cent of strategic reserves, to offset shortages in supply, the Grain Advisory Committee announced after meeting on Thursday.

The move was announced by the permanent secretary of the agriculture ministry, Andreas Gregoriou, who chaired the meeting. He said the additional quantity would be made available until August 31.

“The advisory committee has informed the minister of agriculture and will proceed to issue a decree which will be published today,” he said, noting that importers have an obligation to replace these stocks into the strategic reserve by the end of September. This would be checked, he added.

Gregoriou also made it clear that the distribution of the grain stocks would be at the current market price.

He said the meeting had been called, and all stakeholder invited to attend “to hear the extent of the problem”. “Based on what has been said we took this unanimous decision,” he said.

Agricultural organisations welcomed the decision and raised the issue of creating a body for the management of strategic grain stocks.

In his statements, general-secretary of the agricultural organisation Pek, Michalis Lytras, , spoke of a “substantial and productive” session.

“We unanimously agreed on what we had to decide, namely the release of strategic stocks, especially maize, which is necessary for the nutrition of milk-producing animals,” he said.

Lytras mentioned that at the session he proposed the creation of an authority that will manage the strategic stocks, which, as he indicated, “are of particular importance in times of crisis, when there is a problem with the adequacy of grain”.

For his part, general-secretary of another agricultural body Eka. Panikos Hambas, said this was the first time that grain stocks had even been released.

In mid-July Russia decided not to extend a 2022 agreement that had allowed Ukraine to export its grain by sea despite a wartime blockade, a deal seen as essential to keeping global food prices stable.

Agricultural organisations had been asking the government for the release of strategic stocks. There was also concern that grain traders were not keeping the required amounts for the reserve silos, CNA reported earlier.

As provided by the Conservation of Stocks of Raw Materials for Feed and Grain for Human Use Act of 2021, which was passed on the dissolution of the Grains Commission, the possibility of maintaining stocks of raw materials of feed and grain for human consumption should be ensured.

These stocks are to be placed on the market with the aim of limiting the negative effects in cases of shortages or extreme supply difficulties, due to war, conflicts, natural disasters, health crises, financial problems and other unforeseen emergencies.

When the advisory committee finds that there are grain shortages, a decision is made to release part of the strategic reserves, but farmers believe there are already not enough strategic stocks both for animal feed and human consumption, although in the case of the latter, three-month’s worth of stores is required.

Early this month, officials and farmers said they did not anticipate either a spike in grain prices or immediate shortages after the lapse of the Black Sea grain deal in July.

Agriculture ministry official Constantis Spanashis told the Cyprus News Agency at the time that the island imports more than 85 per cent of barley for animal feed. Meanwhile Cyprus is entirely reliant on imports of corn, soybeans and other derivatives.

Regarding grains for human consumption, Spanashis noted that “things are a little better, as up to 30 per cent [of demand] can be covered by local production, especially durum wheat.”

On whether Cyprus has been affected by Russia’s withdrawal from the Black Sea grain deal, the official commented that the development caused some “market disruption.”

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